Why were the Bucs the only team to adopt new blackout rule?
The Bucs appear to be the only team to avail itself of the NFL’s softened blackout rules that permit games to be aired on local television when as few as 85 percent of tickets are sold.
The Bucs agreed to lower their blackout threshold from the former requirement of 100 percent of non-premium seats sold to 85 percent, taking advantage of a new option made available via a recent NFL rule change. They could have chosen a higher number but settled on the lowest-possible benchmark.
But here’s a question: Why did no other team take advantage of this change? There are a couple of contributing factors.
A big one is the fact that this rule must apply for all home games, meaning it can’t be applied selectively for games that aren’t attractive or set aside for games with greater interest. It would have handcuffed some teams that know they won’t need this rule week in and week out, even if they are occasionally in danger of having blackouts. No team had as many blackouts as the Bucs last season (five), meaning Tampa Bay clearly had more incentive to make this move.
The Bucs sold out just two games, while the other teams who considered implementing this rule had few, if any.
That brings us to another major reason this rule isn’t for everyone.
There are financial implications here that haven’t been taken into consideration by fans. Because the Bucs agreed to this, they have to share 50 percent of revenue from tickets beyond the 85 percent mark with the visiting team. That caveat was added to influence teams not to set too low of a threshold because it would be financially punitive.
For teams that are generally close to sellouts most weeks, it might be more cost-effective to simply “buy up” remaining tickets at the reduced cost of 34 cents on the dollar, declare a sellout and get the game on local TV.
That’s something we’re still likely to see elsewhere in the league. But for the Bucs, who in 13 of their past 15 home games have been well short of sellouts, that option had become rather expensive.
Other teams rejected this opportunity simply because it could cut into their bottom lines, something they say they can’t afford. Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, “We are a volume-based franchise. For us to be successful, we have to keep our ticket prices low and sell a great number of tickets.”
This clearly was something that had to be decided on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately for Bucs fans, the team chose an option that benefits the fan base.