A Wall Street Journal report surfaced on Saturday that the NFL was willing to relax a nearly 40-year old television blackout policy, which prevents fans from watching their hometown team within a 75-mile radius of the stadium, if the game fails to sell out 72 hours before kickoff. The National Football League clearly understands enough that while the home experience, the enhanced quality of broadcasts and the relative economic benefit to stay at home, has shown an unsettling trend.
"The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn't," said Eric Grubman, the NFL's executive vice president of ventures and business operations. "That's a trend that we've got to do something about."
Kevin Clark with the Wall Street Journal writes:
The league's decades-old strategy for encouraging people to attend games, the blackout rule, has become counterproductive in some respects. Blackouts were meant to encourage ticket sales, but the strict guidelines are now looking outdated.
Instead of having a complete sellout, the league is willing to allow the teams themselves to set a benchmark on seats being sold to prevent the blackout, "as long as it is 85% or higher." However the easier the benchmark, the more revenue that team must share. The Cincinnati Bengals only sold 75.2 percent of their tickets in 2011, according to the report.
The league is also enhancing the in-stadium experience, which includes free Wi-Fi (still being negotiated), bolstering cell phone receptions, allowances to "rile up the crowds" for a college-like atmosphere, mandatory implementation of the Red Zone channel, microphones on players and officials among other things.
Cincinnati only sold out two games in 2011, against Pittsburgh and the season-finale against Baltimore. However the game against the Ravens included a creative deal that season ticket holders could purchase a ticket and a get second for free.
To encourage fans to come out to the stadium in 2012, the organization reduced their corner seats to $40/ticket for season tickets, which are already sold out. Other areas are seeing a reduction in price as well. Bengals fans are buying up tickets already however. Troy Blackburn said at the end of March that season-ticket renewals are nearly at 100 percent. After the 2012 NFL draft, the organization also enjoyed a 103 percent ticket increase, one of the biggest jumps in the NFL.