Report: NFL will ease local television blackout restrictions

With ticket sales a problem for some NFL teams that local-television blackouts have become at least a semi-regular issue, the league will ease regulations regarding blackouts.

The Wall Street Journal reports NFL owners have agreed to reduce the threshold for blackouts from 100 percent tickets sold to 85 percent. But the new rule will discourage clubs from dropping the figure. Per the report, clubs can set their own target as long as it is at least 85 percent. However, teams will be forced to share ticket sales revenue with other clubs when they exceed their target number.

What clubs could take advantage of this new system? Well, Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Oakland are clubs that have dealt with blackout issues in recent seasons. So have the San Diego Chargers and the Jacksonville Jaguars have tarped off large sections of seats in their stadium. But there were only 16 blackouts throughout the NFL last season and 10 clubs have no availability for season tickets.

Per the report, the NFL plans to provide free wireless Internet service at stadiums as a way to enhance the in-game experience and allow ticketholders to experience replays and other action like allowing them to hear players that are mic’d up on the field.

“ The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn't,” Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of ventures and business operations, told the WSJ. “That's a trend that we've got to do something about.”

Blackouts haven’t always required 100 percent of ticket sales. The figures don’t include the expensive club level seats. Television stations and local businesses have sometimes bought large chunks of tickets at reduced rates to avoid blackouts.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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