Back in black: Bucs-Titans preseason home opener at RJS falls prey to television blackout
Affordable ticket prices, the NFL’s 85 percent seat exemption, yearly payment plans, half season ticket plans – the Bucs have tried it all this year in an effort to generate sales and hopefully avoid those annoying local television blackouts.
The fans have spoken.
They prefer to listen to it live on radio.
At least that’s true for the Bucs’ preseason home opener against the Tennessee Titans Friday at Raymond James Stadium.
Because the team failed to sell 85 percent of their general seats at least 72 hours before kickoff, Friday’s game will be subject to the NFL’s local television blackout within a 75-mile radius of the home market, the Bucs confirmed Tuesday.
The game will be aired locally on tape delay at 11:30 p.m. on Ch. 10, following the station’s late news. The game also will air Saturday at noon. Ken Tonning, Ch. 10's general manager, said the station was aware of the possibility that the home games might be blacked out and not broadcast live.
"The same thing happened last year and it has worked out fine,'' Tonning said. "The advertisers are satisfied with the broadcasts.''
Tuesday’s announcement that the game will be televised only on tape delay is more evidence that the Bucs are still struggling to sell tickets amid a down economy that is compounded by the team's 4-12 finish in 2011.
The Bucs have had 13 of their past 15 regular-season games at RJS blacked out dating to 2010.
Tampa Bay is one of three teams to take advantage of the NFL's optional softened television blackout restrictions, allowing blackouts to be lifted if 85 percent of non-premium seats – about 44,000 -- are sold at least 72 hours before kickoff.
On Monday, the team trotted out two so-called "half-season" ticket plans that will allow fans more flexibility. The Red Plan includes games against the Titans (preseason), Panthers, Redskins, Saints and Chargers. The Pewter Plan offers games against the Patriots (preseason), Chiefs, Falcons, Eagles and Rams.
But despite all those incentives, the Bucs weren’t able to sell out the Titans preseason game in time to lift the blackout. Tampa Bay will host the New England Patriots in a preseason game Aug. 24 before playing the Carolina Panthers in the regular-season opener at RJS Sept. 9.
"We want to give our fans every opportunity to watch as many games as they can this year," Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said recently. "But I cannot stand here today and predict how many there will be (on television). But we’re hopeful there will be more games on television than last year."