The following is a guest post by Megan Lulofs, a Legal Information Analyst in the Public Services Division.
It’s almost Super Bowl Sunday, a quasi-national holiday when hundreds of millions of Americans (111 million last year) watch the NFL’s championship game. This year’s big game between the New York Giants and New England Patriots in Indianapolis, Indiana is a rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl.
Thanks to full stadium sellouts all season long, Giants and Patriots fans watching from home have been able to follow their respective teams on television through all 16 regular season games and every playoff game to reach this point.
But, what happens if your team doesn’t sell out every game? What happens if your team only sells out one game per season? Ask Cincinnati Bengals fans. The over 30 year old Federal Communications Commission sports blackout rules state that if a team has not sold all tickets for an event 72 hours prior to game time, the game cannot be aired on local broadcast television stations. In Cincinnati, that means only watching the Bengals once a year.
This year, fans have had enough. A petition has been filed with the Media Bureau of the FCC to lift local blackout rules and allow fans everywhere to watch their hometown teams on TV, regardless of ticket sales. In a statement, the FCC welcomed the petition “in light of marketplace changes.” Looking at the price of professional sports tickets (up, up, up) compared with household incomes since the subprime mortgage crisis and following economic turmoil (down, down, down), “marketplace changes” might seem like an understatement. Back in Ohio, Bengals season ticket plans will start at $40 per game in 2012. Multiply by 8 home games, and consider the median household income in Cincinnati at $33,681 (average from 2006-2010), and it’s not hard to see the appeal of staying home and watching the game on TV–provided it’s not blacked out.
We’ll wait and see if any changes are made to the local blackout rules for next season. In the meantime, fret not about this Sunday, football fans. Every Super Bowl since the first in 1967 has sold out. Kick back, enjoy the game, take in the halftime show and celebrate if your team wins!
Your article reminds me of back when I was a teen living in Miami. Before widespread availability of cable TV, or CATV back then, many residents would set up high power outside antennae to receive the signals of the Naples, FL NBC affiliate that carried Dolphins’ games during blackouts.