The NFL will suspend its blackout policy for the 2015-16 season, league spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed. The move is just for this upcoming season, and after the fact the NFL will review the policy to see how it played out, according to Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal.
The league's blackout policy hasn't made sense in a long time, and nobody has ever been able to point to proof that it actually results in more people attending games. The blackout rule came into effect when teams did not sell out 85 percent of their non-premium tickets for a home game within 72 hours of kickoff. In that event, the designated "home area" for viewers would be blacked out on television.
The rule has been in place since 1975 and, in theory, was designed to get more people to attend the games. But the concept of somebody planning to watch the game at home turning on their TV, discovering the game isn't going to be on before going out and buying a ticket instead isn't particularly believable. As NFL fans have argued, the blackout rule only ever hurt them.
In 2013, U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and John McCain put forth legislation that would take away the NFL's broadcasting antitrust exemption unless they lifted the blackout rule. In September of 2014, the Federal Communications Commission voted to eradicate the NFL blackout rule. That didn't make it impossible for the league to use the rule, however, since it was still on the NFL's books.
It's unclear if those things led to the league voting on abolishing the rule now, but the pressure couldn't have hurt. Last season, no NFL games were blacked out and only two games were blacked out the previous year.