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TheStreet Open House

NFL Blackouts: 16 Games in 2011, NFL Cares 0

Stocks in this article: CBS DTV NWS CMCSA DIS

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Only in the NFL is a season in which a team televises less than half of its home games considered a success.

A league whose core business is showing professional football to the masses failed to do that 16 times in four different markets last year when its policies blacked out home games not sold out 72 hours before kickoff. That number is an improvement over the 26 blacked out in 2010 but would have been a lot higher if it weren't for a little loophole that allows tickets to be bought for 34 cents on the dollar by team broadcast partners who've already paid millions in rights fees (looking at you and your CBS (CBS) affiliate, Miami Dolphins) or sponsors who've paid more than a billion just to make their products NFL official (see Anheuser-Busch's (BUD) Bud Light bailouts of the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars last year).

Anheuser-Busch performed some Bud Light bailouts of the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars last year.

This comes as no surprise to fans in NFL markets such as Tampa/St. Petersburg, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were blacked out on local CBS and Fox affiliates five times after having their entire slate of home games taken off television in 2010. This is just standard operating procedure for a league that renewed its television deal with CBS, Fox (NWS) and NBC (CMCSA) through 2022, increased its take from $1.9 billion per year to $3.1 billion and potentially boosted overall revenue by as much as 60%. That followed an eight-year extension the league signed with ESPN (DIS) earlier this year to keep Monday Night Football on that network through 2021 and bump up its fee to $1.9 billion a year from $1.1 billion.

This is the same league that blacked out a Buffalo Bills home game against the Dolphins the same week it signed that multi-network, multibillion-dollar deal and, on Christmas Eve less than a week later, blacked out Bills and Cincinnati Bengals home games. It doesn't matter that the blackout rule was written back in 1973, when the NFL's TV take was miniscule and stadium ticket receipts made up a much bigger part of league revenue. It's of little concern to the NFL that the nearly $430 average cost of taking a family of four to one NFL game, according to Team Marketing Report, is more than the cost of seeing hundreds of NFL games and watching the blackout-proof RedZone channel with DirecTV's (DTV) Sunday Ticket package.

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