TAMPA — For the first time since the doors opened at Raymond James Stadium in 1998, Tampa Bay area fans will not be able to see a Bucs game locally on television.
The team said Tuesday that its preseason home opener against the Chiefs on Saturday night will not be shown live on Ch. 8, which carries its preseason games.
The team had one more day for the game to sell out before facing the league rule that a sellout must happen 72 hours before kickoff to avoid a blackout. But director of communications Jonathan Grella announced that the game would be dark because of a large amount of unsold tickets.
According to NFL rules, the blackout is required for a 75-mile radius around the stadium; that area includes Orlando, Bradenton and Sarasota. DirecTV customers are also subject to the blackout.
Three preseason games were blacked out last weekend: at San Diego, Cincinnati and St. Louis.
In the past few years, the Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, has bought unsold tickets to keep the games on local television. Bucs co-chairmen Bryan and Joel Glazer have warned since the spring that lagging season ticket sales would result in blackouts this season.
"For the first time in nearly 15 years, realistically, we are staring at having games blacked out in our local market," Joel Glazer said in March. "I bring that up because I don't want people to be surprised when they get to September and they go to watch the game and the game is not on TV.
"It's not what we want. We're working hard to avoid it, and I think people are starting to see what we're trying to do with younger players and (second-year quarterback) Josh Freeman and building around that, and there is some excitement when we talk to people. But we're in unchartered waters."
Ch. 8 will air the game on tape delay at 11 a.m. Sunday.
The last Bucs game not shown locally was Oct. 27, 1997, when the team played at Houlihan's Stadium.
The league had 22 blackouts last season, more than double the previous season's nine. It was the most blackouts since 30 games weren't televised in 2004.
The Bucs have had an aggressive marketing campaign and lowered ticket prices to $35 per game, $25 for ages 16 and under. They've also added payment plans and waived deposit fees on club seats.
A significant number of tickets also are available for the other home preseason game, Aug. 28 against Jacksonville.