5 NFL Grinches For The 2012 Holiday Season
PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Number of weeks gone by in the NFL season? Thirteen. Number of home game blackouts? Twelve. Happy holidays, fans.
The National Football League was supposed to be entering a game-changing season for its television blackout policy, which dates back to an act of Congress in 1961. The act prevents home games from showing on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if tickets aren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff. This summer, after the Federal Communications Commission agreed to review the policy, the NFL took its first step away from those restrictions. Under new rules, teams would be allowed to broadcast games within their local coverage area even if only 85% of tickets are sold.
Unfortunately, it was up to the teams' owners to decide if they want to adopt that 85% threshold. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers adopted the lower "sellout" mark in July and lowered ticket prices after blacking out 13 of their past 15 home games. The Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings have since followed suit, but the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals and San Diego Chargers didn't feel quite as strongly. Those three teams stuck to the 100% mark despite blacking out games in each of the past two seasons and trying to get taxpayers to pony up for stadium construction and improvements.
But shaming local ownership was the entire point of that new rule. It was designed to divert attention away from the NFL just after it inked television deals with ESPN (DIS), ABC, NBC (CMCSA), CBS (CBS) and Fox (NWS) that will boost NFL revenue more than 60% by 2022 -- and places the heat right on the individual teams and their owners. The league revised its blackout rule despite watching its blackout rate drop to 6.3% last year from 8% between 2001 and 2010, 31% in the 1990s, 40% in the 1980s and 50% in the 1970s. By doing so, it issued a subtle reminder that only some of the 31 teams who took public money to build their stadiums are denying fans access to the on-field action.As we enter the holiday season and the waning weeks of the NFL season, we see that the NFL's new blackout regulations didn't do much at all. Blackouts are still happening and teams are still trying to shake down their markets for every penny they can get. With that in mind, we took a look around the league this year and came up with a "naughty" list of five teams who kept fans from seeing games this season. We'd put coal in their stockings, but they'd probably just threaten to move them to another chimney if they don't get toys instead:
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