WASHINGTON (TheStreet) -- If you like this season's NFL blackouts, just wait until the entire season is blacked out next year.
This is the warning Brian Frederick, executive director of Washington-based fan lobbying and advocacy group the Sports Fans Coalition, offers the NFL faithful who think they didn't need to get worked up about this year's 13 games blacked out in their home markets -- a measure that kicks in when games aren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff. As most fans are all too aware, the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association is up for renewal next year, and owners are looking to reduce the 60% of revenue that goes to their helmeted-and-jerseyed employees.
|As unhappy as football fans are with 13 games so far being blacked out in from TV broadcasts in their home markets, they're going to be even less happy with a likely owner lockout next year.|
Unless the league can prove profits aren't all they could be, there's little chance players will allow owners to shrink their cut. That means NFL owners could lock out players and, subsequently, fans for the entire 2011 season and 2011-12 playoffs -- making this year's blackouts look like a self-help pamphlet titled Living Without the NFL.Who should fans and well-invested league sponsors including Visa (V), Motorola (MOT), FedEx (FDX), PepsiCo (PEP), IBM (IBM), Procter & Gamble (PG) and next year's beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) blame for these blackouts and impending lockout? Don't look at Fox (NWS), CBS (CBS), NBC (GE), DirecTV (DTV) or ESPN (DIS), as their hands are tied by the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which allows the NFL to sell TV rights and enforce its blackout policy anytime it likes. Don't look at players, who make millions but don't offer contracts or sign their own checks for a job with a 100% injury rate. The Sports Fans Coalition -- which includes former members of the Clinton and second Bush administrations -- says to look to the FCC for the solution to blackouts, as federal regulations 47 C.F.R., 76.111 and 76.127 prohibit cable or satellite providers from picking up NFL games if a local network affiliate has broadcast rights. Blame Congress for shielding the NFL with a decades-old antitrust agreement and agreeing to television and blackout plans. Mostly, however, Frederick advises fans to take a long, cold look at local franchise owners who take public funding for their stadiums while allowing the league to block local broadcasts of their team's home games unless fans shell out an average $76 for a seat or $421 for their family of four, according to Team Marketing Report. This is why Buccaneers fans in Tampa who paid $168.5 million in tax dollars to build Raymond James (RJF) Stadium more than a decade ago -- after team owner Malcolm Glazer threatened to move the franchise -- have had their entire 2010 season blacked out on local television for their trouble.
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