The voices speaking out against the NFL's blackout policy are getting louder. Fan and consumer advocacy groups the Sports Fan Coalition, National Consumers League, Public Knowledge, Media Access Project and Ralph Nader's League of Fans petitioned the Federal Communications Commission in November to eliminate the NFL blackout rule. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has petitioned the commission twice this season on behalf of Cincinnati and Dayton residents to eliminate home game blackouts.
"The NFL's blackout policy is unnecessary," Brown said. "The NFL is poised to earn record profits while the Cincinnati taxpayers who built the stadium will be watching reruns rather than touchdown runs. The rule is an outdated relic that doesn't serve the NFL or the fans."
The NFL's still not listening. Why should it? Not only were football's ratings up in 2011, but the NFL pre-game and post-game shows accounted for four of television's Top 10 prime-time shows and for nine out of the Top 10 single broadcasts, according to Nielsen.
That leaves fans tired of blackouts, but not tired enough to boycott the NFL, with two options:1. Hope the team gets better, as the Detroit Lions and Oakland Raiders did while selling out entire slates of home games in 2011 after dealing with blackouts in 2010. The Bengals and last year's Buccaneers, however, are fine examples of how that strategy can fail and force fans to ... 2. Buy the Sunday Ticket package, which is what the NFL's spokesman implies you should be doing anyway. No, you won't get to see the full version of a blacked-out game until the next day at the earliest, but the RedZone channel will give you all of that game's scoring drives and game-changing plays in real time while providing more exciting moments from other games as filler. Football fans aren't going to bail on the NFL anytime soon, but if the league is bent on raising ticket prices and punitively punishing fans that don't fill their oversized stadiums to capacity under every circumstance, it's the fan's right to exploit blackout loopholes on their own. -- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
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