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FCC votes to end blackout rule, next step is for NFL to end its policy

The FCC voted to end its blackout rule. We take a look at what it means for the NFL's blackout policy.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

There is some moderately big news for all professional sports fans today. The Federal Communications Commission voted to end their blackout rule. The broadcast rule had been in place since 1975, and for NFL fans, it allowed the league to black out local broadcasts if the home team did not sell out the game 72 hours in advance. I believe this change can impact other sports, but the biggest impact is football where the regular season schedule of games is negotiated entirely by the league, and not by individual teams. I don't know the exactly details of what this means for MLB's often ridiculous policies.

This rule change does not mean the NFL will end its blackout policy. The rule provided the league with cover, but technically, ending the rule does not mean the NFL has to end the policy. Instead, it creates opportunities for the government to use pressure to force the abandonment of this rule. The biggest tool in the government's arsenal is threatening the league's antitrust exemption if they do not end the rule.

In reality, the blackout rule has had little impact in recent years. In 2013, only two of the 256 regular season games were blacked out. The number has declined in recent years, although some of that is likely due as much to teams buying up tickets where needed to avoid blackouts. The sport is incredibly popular, but it has become more and more of a financial burden to attend games. It would be interesting to see an analysis of ticket price in the markets that have been getting blackouts, as compared to the rest of the league.