But if you live in North Florida and want to see Larry Fitzgerald or Kurt Warner, you better stake out their hotel or head down to the stadium. This Jaguars game won’t be televised within 75 miles of the stadium. And this is just the first of many.
Blackouts — the term the NFL uses for its practice of blocking games to a local viewing area when the stadium doesn’t sell out — are going to proliferate in 2009. According to Sports Business Journal, up to 12 teams may face blackouts this season, four times the usual amount. Only three teams had blackouts last year.
“We knew this was coming,” said Dan Edwards, Jacksonville’s VP of Media Relations. “This offseason has been the most challenging we’ve had. At this point, none of the games are sold out and we’re a ways away from selling any of them out. We’ve known it was coming, but now that the season’s here, it’s just registering with a lot of people.
“It’s a more severe situation than it ever has been, but we’re not alone,” Edwards noted. “We’re not the only team struggling to sell tickets.”
It does appear the Jaguars are the only ones who’ll be affected this week, according to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. In an e-mail Thursday, Aiello said that 12 of the league’s 16 games are sold out, and that the 72-hour deadline to have the all general admission seats sold had been extended in Detroit and San Diego. Miami, which plays Monday night, also has unsold seats.
The story is a sign of the economic times for the country's most powerful professional sports league.
The economic downturn, which hit with great force last October, is being felt now in the form of season-ticket holders passing on renewals and fans opting to save their money and stay home.
The league has also made a few concessions to the fiscal realities of their fans. Games are being replayed online for hours after the games are played. And the newly-started Red Zone Channel, which broadcasts big plays and touchdowns from games, will not be blacked out.
But the NFL has no intention of lifting the blackout policy.
“That blackout policy has been in place for several decades,” commissioner Roger Goodell said recently. “It's been, I think, very good for the game, for the fans, for the teams. We continue to do what we can, knowing what our fans are going through in this environment.”
Blackouts were a common occurrence in the not-too-distant past, a fact Goodell is happy to point out.
“If you look at our blackout (situation), our worst-case projections for right now, at least 80 percent of our games are going to be ... shown in the local markets,” said Goodell. “That's significantly higher than where we were in the '90s, a decade ago. I believe we were at 69 percent for the '90s. We'll still have significantly higher than we've had in the very recent past, the number of blackouts (lifted). Still, over 80 percent of our games will be sold out.”
The impact of unsold tickets, of course, goes beyond fans being unable to see their favorite team play a home game.
It cuts to the heart of the looming labor crisis between players and owners. Fewer tickets sold means less money spent on parking, concessions, merchandise, etc. Fewer people in the seats makes it harder to sell all kinds of ads — in-stadium, game programs, radio, internet, you name it. And less revenue in Jacksonville doesn’t impact just Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver. Because revenues are shared, a non-sellout in Jacksonville hurts just as much in Green Bay or New England as it does in Florida.
The shrinking “pot”of revenue will ultimately impact the players.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
And players are steadfast that they will not accept less than the 60 percent they’re currently enjoying. Negotiations on a new CBA have barely started as the two sides have engaged in much saber-rattling. The threat of a work stoppage? Very real.
Put another way, if things continue on the path they’re going, nobody will be watching any NFL games.
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Number of NFL blackouts by season
|Year||Blackouts||Percent lifted||Total games|
|198||106 4||53 percent||224|
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
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