FCC Flips Light Switch on: No NFL Blackouts

In a 5-0 vote today, the Federal Communications Commission just said no to blacking out games that aren't sold out.

In a 5-0 vote today, the Federal Communications Commission decided to eliminate its rule banning the airing of local games that were not sold out.

Although it’s a vote that pretty much doesn't matter, since basically all NFL games are sold out, the NFL released a statement waving its collective finger anyway. "NFL teams have made significant efforts in recent years to minimize blackouts," the statement said. "The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games on free, over-the-air television. The FCC's decision will not change that commitment for the foreseeable future."

The rule was set up in the 1970s to prevent cable and satellite operators from eating up ticket sales by airing games that were blacked out on local TV. That's because back in those days, tickets sales were most teams' number one revenue driver. Today, says the FCC, the league pulls in $6 billion a year in advertising and licensing fees. Tickets shmickets.

While the NFL shook its head at the ruling, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association stood up and cheered.

"We commend the commission’s unanimous decision to eliminate the antiquated sports blackout rule," they said in a statement. "As the video marketplace continues to evolve and offers consumers more competition and a growing variety of new services, we encourage the FCC to continue its examination of outdated rules that no longer make sense."

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