NFL makes big changes to blackout policy, but what will Bucs do?
In today's newspaper, we detailed the reported changes to the NFL's television blackout policy, which is being softened significantly.
As first reported in the Wall Street Journal and later confirmed by an NFL spokesman, the new policy gives teams the option to lift a blackout as long as 85 percent of more of seats are sold. The former policy required all non-premium seats to be sold out at least 72 hours before kickoff or a local television blackout would be implemented. If a team chooses to do this, it will be required to share more revenue than usual to make up for the empty seats.
First impressions: For one, this is a major surprise. The NFL for years has maintained that it was not going to relax its blackout rules. It's a subject we've addressed numerous times in recent years, and no one has ever expressed any indication that a potential change was on the table.
Secondly, it will be interesting to see how the Bucs address this. In years past, they consistently were willing to eat the expense of buying up unsold tickets for 34 cents on the dollar (to satisfy revenue-sharing requirements), thereby lifting the blackout despite falling short of a sellout.
But Tampa Bay hasn't done that for the past two years, probably because it's an expensive proposition. We aren't totally clear how much it would cost to satisfy the revenue-sharing issues under this policy, but it's likely to be an important part of the equation.
If it's a reasonable amount of money, the Bucs will have a decision to make. Are they confident they can draw a healthy crowd in spite of games being on TV? Are they willing to continue coping with the fan backlash and lack of exposure to their brand that comes from blackouts?
It doesn't appear as if there's a cut-and-dried answer here. But whatever happens, this change in policy seems like a victory for fans. And for fans of the Bucs specifically, it makes it more likely that they'll be able to see what they've been missing the past two years, when 13 regular-season games were blacked out.