Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami.com) – Monday night, the Dolphins announced the blackout of its final preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys due to poor ticket sales. The game is usually one of the worst preseason games, so the blackout wasn’t a surprise, but it could be a sign of things to come.
According to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald, the Fins haven’t had a regular-season game blacked out since October 1998. The first game of the year, against division rival New England, will sell out in time to lift the blackout.
But, home games against Houston, Buffalo, Denver, and Oakland are all vulnerable to blackout, the Herald reported.
A blackout is invoked by the NFL if a team doesn’t sell out a home game. It means the game can’t be shown live in the home market of the team. So, if the Houston game doesn’t sell out, the game can be seen live in Houston, but not in Miami.
It’s essentially a way to entice the local fans to come out to the stadium; instead of thinking they can watch the game in surround sound on a big-screen TV at home. But, it puts enormous pressure on the home team and other entities in the local market.
Many times other businesses, media outlets, and other entities will buy up the remaining tickets to help ensure the game will be aired locally. The reason behind this is the advertising time in and around a Dolphins game is very valuable to everyone, and no one wants to lose that revenue.
During the Great Recession, it’s become increasingly difficult to count on other businesses, or even fans, to sell out the stadium.
“The message here is we have work to do,” with ticket sales, Dolphins CEO Mike Dee told the Herald. “We’re not where we hoped we would be.”
Part of the problem is the team on the field. The Fins haven’t had a winning season since 2008, and at times last year weren’t even competitive. South Florida fans are fickle and want a winner, if they don’t see a winner on the field; they’ll simply quit going to the games.
The Dolphins are fighting against the growing sentiment that it simply costs too much to go to a game, especially if the team isn’t winning. Fans will pay if the team is good, just ask the Miami Heat. But, fans will not come if the team is bad, as is the case for the Florida Marlins.
“If there were a couple thousand tickets left, we would figure out a way to get it done,” Dee told the Herald. “But this is more significant. We’ve got to find ways to entice people to come back.”
The Fins are not helping their cause by putting together promotions like the Gator Day promotion that has put a black eye on the franchise for anyone who’s not a Gator fan.
“We’re sensitive to the reaction,” he said. “But we have a very significant challenge in our market to market Dolphins football, and unfortunately we’re not in a position to be selective about whom we market to. We love everybody, and we have to be aggressive and market in ways that attract new fans.”
In other words, the Fins’ ticket sales and are willing to try anything to spark lagging ticket sales.
In the end, it may come down to lowering ticket prices until the team proves it can win. Whether or not the current regime is still here when that happens is a different story altogether.