FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai met with some folks in Buffalo, and had some interesting remarks. Pai said he supports ending the sports television blackout rules, and will ask the FCC to hold an up-or-down vote on ending the rule. I've posted his comments below. It reads like a bit of a political event, so I'm not exactly holding my breath on this, but hopefully we will see some change soon.
Blackouts in the NFL are fairly limited. There were two blackouts last year, and given the 49ers sales in their new stadium, they will not be blacked out in the Bay Area any time soon. And yet, that is not the problem. The issue is the NFL's broader attempts to wring money out of fans through ridiculous threats.
The blackout rules were initially instituted in part because television money was not the endless pot at the end of the rainbow. Before sports television was such a huge deal, ticket sales were critical. Tickets sales are still part of the overall revenue equation, but for the league as a whole, they are dwarfed by the crazy television money. On a team-by-team basis it certainly varies. The 49ers are bringing in gobs of money through SBLs and ticket sales, but as we've seen, the 49ers have been able to sell out their stadium for years. Sometimes the ticket numbers are manipulated to guarantee the sell-out, but they've avoided blackouts.
Ending the sports blackout rule does not guarantee the end of blackouts entirely. The NFL would still have an option to blackout local games, but there would be some hurdles that potentially cause headaches. This makes this potentially more of a symbolic victory, but it would be a step in the right direction.