Hey NFL, You Have a Blackout Problem

By Noah Davis 

Here’s a story that’s not going away: NFL games getting blacked out.

Yesterday we reported that the San Diego Chargers game won’t be shown on local television for the first time since 2004. Additionally, the Oakland Raiders won’t be on local television this weekend.

NFL rules call for games to be blacked out by any television station within 75 miles of the stadium if 95 percent of the available tickets aren’t sold out 72 hours in advance of kickoff.

Time is calling 2010 “The Year of the NFL Television Blackout?” (SEO friendly, no?), but this isn’t a new problem.

Before the start of the 2009 season, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell warned writers and fans that up to 20 percent of games could be blacked out in local markets. That figure turned out to be overly pessimistic – less than 10 percent of the games (22 out of 256) weren’t sold out – but it represented a more than 100 percent jump from 2008.

Last year, five squad accounted for all 22 blackouts: the Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, and St. Louis Rams. In 2010, however, up to 11 teams are in danger of missing their attendance goals.

There’s a growing movement to remove or alter the blackout rules. It’s hard to see that happening, given how powerful the NFL is.