Dozen NFL Teams Could Face TV Blackouts According to NFL rules, a pro-football game that is not sold out 72 hours before kickoff is blacked out on local television. Sports Business Journal reporter Daniel Kaplan says last season three teams — the Detroit Lions the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders — accounted for the nine games that were blacked out. This year, the number is up to 12 teams.

Dozen NFL Teams Could Face TV Blackouts

Dozen NFL Teams Could Face TV Blackouts

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According to NFL rules, a pro-football game that is not sold out 72 hours before kickoff is blacked out on local television. Sports Business Journal reporter Daniel Kaplan says last season three teams — the Detroit Lions the St. Louis Rams and the Oakland Raiders — accounted for the nine games that were blacked out. This year, the number is up to 12 teams.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

We think we've learned about a new economic indicator: The National Football League Blackout Percentage Index. A pro football game that is not sold out 72 hours before kickoff is blacked out on local television. That's a 36-year-old league policy. And we're talking about a league many of whose teams are accustomed to fans on waiting lists hoping for a shot at season tickets. Well, it seems that when the economic going gets tough, selling tickets gets tough, too. Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal joins us from New York.

And, Daniel Kaplan, how many NFL regular season games were blacked out last season, and what does the league foresee this season?

Mr. DANIEL KAPLAN (Reporter, Sports Business Journal): Last year, out of 256 regular season games, only nine were blacked out. That comprised three teams: the Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders. But this year, the league is forecasting that up to 12 teams could have at least one game blacked out and that the Jacksonville Jaguars by themselves will nearly equal all the games that were blacked out last year. And just to give your listeners a sense of just how bad that is, several years ago, the league agreed to allow the Jaguars to tarp off sections of its upper deck so those seats would not be considered for blackout purposes.

SIEGEL: So actually, they don't have to sell out the greatest capacity of their stadium to qualify.

Mr. KAPLAN: And they still can't do that now for this season.

SIEGEL: Now, how do the past couple of years compare historically with what NFL ticket sales have been like in blackouts?

Mr. KAPLAN: Well, that is - the context is everything, of course. And historically, if, you know, the league says only 90 percent of games, for example, are not blacked out this year, that actually would be quite good on historical bases. In the 1970s, over half the games were often blacked out right after the policy was first into place. It gradually rose in the '80s and the '90s, and it reached its historical high in 2007 at 97 percent. So if it dips back a little, it won't be a disaster for the league, but it will be a public relations headache, no doubt.

SIEGEL: Now, some of the teams that expect to blackout home games because they can't sell out this year - the Detroit Lions, the Kansas City Chiefs, the St. Louis Rams - these teams were horrible last year. But there are other teams you're talking about here - the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins - were pretty good last year, and they can't sell out their seats.

Mr. KAPLAN: They can't sell out. And the - every case is, of course, distinct. The Miami Dolphins, South Florida is a historically fickle professional sports market. Who wants to go on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and sit at an NFL stadium? Similar in San Diego. The stadium is somewhat outdated, too, there. Fans don't like it. So there are a lot of issues in a number of markets. But I do believe that in those two markets, you probably will see, at most, you know, one or two blackouts.

SIEGEL: What kind of ticket prices are we talking about? What sort of tickets are not selling easily this year?

Mr. KAPLAN: The - well, certainly, the premium-level seats and such are not selling well. The thing to remember with those, though, are a lot of those do not count towards the blackout rules. These are mainly the general seating tickets that qualify for blackout. And there, the prices can range anywhere from $40 or $50 a ticket to a couple hundred dollars a ticket.

SIEGEL: And it's one measure of economic hard times that it's a little harder to come by all that money for that many people.

Mr. KAPLAN: Even the NFL is not immune to hard times.

SIEGEL: Well, Dan Kaplan, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. KAPLAN: Thank you very much.

SIEGEL: That's Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal who spoke to us from New York City.

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