In news that caught most people off guard, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the NFL would be easing restrictions within its television blackout policy. The new policy will require NFL teams set a sales goal to sell at least 85% of tickets to each game. If a team meets there goal, the game will not be blacked out. In order to encourage teams to set goals higher than 85%, the NFL will institute a higher revenue sharing percentage for any sales over the teams' stated goals.
The previous blackout rule required a sell-out 72 hours before a game, with some exceptions made when limited tickets remained. This policy has come under criticism numerous times in recent years. The HD experience, combined with Internet media, has forever changed how we view games every Sunday. As more people choose to stay home, average home attendance across the league has reportedly gone down 4.5% since 2007. The NFL is looking for ways to improve the in-stadium experience through technological advances, but reforming the blackout rule has been a major issue.
"The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn't," said Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of ventures and business operations. "That's a trend that we've got to do something about."
The policy has become a public cause in recent months, with the Federal Communications Commission bringing the rule under review. There is no word whether this threatened investigation was the impetus for NFL owners deciding to change blackout rules.