The National Football League (NFL) has suspended its local blackout policy for the 2015 NFL season.
The NFL has suspended its local blackout policy for the 2015 season.
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According to NFL.com's Kevin Patra, the league will re-evaluate the rule at the conclusion of the upcoming season. The blackout policy dates back to the early 1970s when ticket sales were the norm in terms of generating revenue. If tickets for a game weren't sold out 72 hours before kickoff, it would be blacked out in its local television markets.
The NFL has made major strides in minimizing the blackout policy in the past two seasons. There were only two in 2013 while there were none last season, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport (via NFL.com).
Patra goes into more detail in his update:
"The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games in local markets on free, over-the-air television.
"The Federal Communications Commission also came out recently against the blackout policy. In September 2014, the FCC repealed its sport blackout rules. The order eliminated FCC reinforcement of the league's blackout policy, but it did not affect the league's ability to maintain and enforce the blackout policy through contractual arrangements with programming distributors.
"With the proliferation of booming television deals and increased public funding of stadiums, the NFL has decided to run a season without the policy in place and analyze whether the lack of a blackout threat drastically alters ticket sales in certain markets."
Connecticut senator Richard Blumenthal told ESPN on Monday the suspension of the blackout policy is a huge victory for football fans:
"This decision to suspend the blackout policy for the upcoming NFL season is a victory for the millions of sports fans and consumers across the country and it brings us one step closer to eliminating the anti-fan measure once and for all. This antiquated, anti-consumer rule has for too long served only the NFL's bottom line at the expense of sports fans.
"I urge the FCC to take action to permanently remove the rule so that sports fans have the opportunity to cheer on their favorite teams, regardless of where they are watching."
In spite of the declining trend in blackouts, several teams such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and San Diego Chargers "have struggled to avoid blackouts," per ESPN.
The NFL defines a sellout as selling a large majority of the seats, not selling every single one of them, per ESPN. The blackout policy is inapplicable to suites or club suites.
In another development, the NFL will not overhaul its catch rule in the aftermath of Dez Bryant's play in the NFC divisionional playoff game against the Green Bay Packers last January, per NFL.com's Conor Orr.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said his team modified the interpretation of the controversial rule during the NFL Annual Meeting on March 23, per Orr:
"The committee looked at the language and made several changes. In order to complete a catch, the receiver has to have control, both feet on the ground, and he has to have it after that long enough to clearly establish himself as a runner.
"This would fall directly in line with our defenseless player rule, where we say a receiver is protected until he can clearely establish himself as a runner. And what does that mean? That means the has the ability to ward off and protect himself into the impending contact.
"Well if he can clearly establish himself as a runner, then he's not going to be on the ground to make the catch. If he hasn't clearly established himself as a runner prior to going to the ground, then he has to hold onto the ball until after his initial contact with the ground."
Orr says Blandino's statement implies Bryant's catch against the Packers is not a valid one. Blandino's team removed the term "football move" and will now try to determine the receiver's position as a runner. Blandino said Bryant trying to reach for the goal line during that game has been the subject of discussion during the NFL Annual Meeting.
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