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Did The NFL's New Blackout Policy Work?

PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- We've made it to Week 7 of the National Football League season and every home game has been televised. That means the NFL's tweak to its blackout rule last year totally worked and nobody needs to change it any further, right?

Well, not quite.

There's no arguing with the results of that rule change thus far in 2013, but it hasn't exactly been flawless.

Under the NFL original television rule, which dates back to an act of Congress in 1961, home games couldn't be shown on TV stations that broadcast within a 75-mile radius of the stadium if non-premium tickets weren't completely sold out 72 hours before kickoff. Last year, the NFL allowed teams the option of calling games "sellouts" at 85% capacity and keeping them on local television.

The Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- the latter of which blacked out 25 of 29 home games between 2010 and 2012 even under the new rule -- all opted to lower the bar. The Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills -- all of which struggled with ticket sales in recent years -- vociferously rejected the NFL's offer. The rule change didn't prevent its adherents or detractors from blacking out 15 games combined last year. That's down from 16 in 2011 and 26 in 2010, but even that number was too high for the NFL's critics.

Republican senator and former presidential nominee John McCain of Arizona introduced legislation in May that would prevent the NFL from blacking out home games played in stadiums built with public money -- and a full 30 of the NFL's 31 stadiums have had a portion of their costs paid for with tax dollars. It cost an average of $525 million to cover each of 20 NFL stadiums built since 1997, according to a Minnesota study looking into the likely costs of a new stadium for the Vikings. The total estimate is that 56% of those stadium costs -- or roughly $238 million per stadium -- were paid for with public funds. That's nearly $4.8 billion in tax dollars spent on NFL stadiums alone, but economists estimate that continued costs including maintenance, infrastructure and renovations dip into more tax money and force the public to pay upward of 70% of a stadium's cost.
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