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NFL Blackouts Wane, but Still Worrisome

Stocks in this article: BUD CBS CMCSA NWS DIS DTV

TAMPA ( MainStreet) -- For three solid weeks, the NFL televised all its games in their home markets. That means blackouts aren't a problem anymore, right?

Not so fast, there, sports fans.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have sold out two home games this season to put the games back on local television, but that didn't prevent Sunday's home matchup from falling off the TV schedule.

Though the NFL didn't pull a game off television from Oct. 13 through Nov. 4 and blacked out television broadcasts of only seven games in their home markets before that span -- well behind last season's 26-blackout pace -- there are still problems with the league blackout policy (which dates back to 1975 and requires teams to sell out games 72 hour before kickoff before televising games in their home markets). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have sold out two home games this season to put the games back on local television and avoid blacking out the entire home slate, as the team did in 2010. That didn't prevent Sunday's home matchup against the Houston Texans at Raymond James (RJF) Stadium from falling off the television schedule, however, and likely won't be the team's last lost TV matchup, since there are plenty of seats still available for a Dec. 4 game against the Carolina Panthers.

"It is absurd that the government still props up the sports leagues with an outdated and unnecessary rule written four decades ago," says Brian Frederick, executive director of fan advocacy for lobbying group the Sports Fans Coalition, in a statement issued Friday. "The FCC's blackout rule simply helps to perpetuate the anti-consumer practice of withholding sporting events from fans who cannot afford tickets to games, even when those fans helped to subsidize sports through public funding, laws and regulations."

The optimistic view is that things are getting better. The Oakland Raiders have sold out five straight home games and aired more than one home game in a season for the first time since 2008. That's no small feat for a franchise that has had 83 home game broadcasts taken off local television and only 50 aired since moving back to Oakland from Los Angeles in 1995. The Cincinnati Bengals also ended a seven-game blackout streak by selling out their Sunday matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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