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FCC Proposes Ending Some Sports Blackouts For TV

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WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The Federal Communications Commission has proposed ending federally enforced TV sports blackout rules. It’s a decision that could fundamentally alter how sports are distributed on TV.

Professional sports like the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball, use blackouts as an incentive to get fans to go to the stadium. For example, NFL rules state a team must “sell-out” before the game can be shown in a local market.

If the game isn’t “sold out,” which typically requires over 85 percent of non-premium tickets sold; the game will not be shown locally. In the NFL, teams, sponsors, and broadcasters, can buy up remaining tickets for roughly 34 cents on the dollar to games to ensure the game is broadcast locally.

Major League Baseball and the NHL have similar blackout rules, except both leagues don’t an attendance requirement like the NFL.

One key to the blackout rules is that while the FCC would end mandatory blackouts; individual leagues and teams could still implement blackouts based on negotiations with providers.

“It appears that the sports blackout rules are unnecessary because sports leagues can pursue local blackout protection through private contractual negotiations,” the FCC said. “Thus, it appears that the sports blackout rules have become obsolete.”

As part of the justification for its move, the FCC said that television revenue had “replaced gate receipts as the most significant source of revenue for NFL clubs in the 40 years since the rules were first adopted.”

The FCC is now seeking comments on the proposal, along with an analysis of the impact of ending blackout rules.

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