The NFL announced a grand experiment on Monday, saying it would put a mid-season football game on a national digital platform, not on national television — opening up an important new door for the sports media industry. The league acknowledged that the trial effort is designed to understand the market for digital rights.
The football league tells the FCC that eliminating blackouts also will make the game less TV-friendly and that the regulatory agency doesn’t actually have authority to change the rules.
Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown’s plea comes amid reports the Bengals could be blacked out in Cincinnati.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) claims the NFL’s blackout rule, instituted in 1973 and regulated by the FCC, is extreme, archaic and poor public policy. In May, the 2008 presidential nominee introduced a bill that would prohibit the league from blacking out games in markets in which teams have used public financing for stadium construction. “If the taxpayers paid for [a stadium] then, by God, I think the taxpayers ought to be able to see the game whether they sell out the stadium or not.”
Sens. Sherrod Brown, Richard Blumenthal and Rep. Brian Higgins have praised the league owners’ recent decision to let teams decide whether local TV broadcasters can air games if the stadium is at least 85% full. The original NFL rule had required broadcasters to black out the games if the local team did not sell out the stadium.