Bengals Decline New Blackout Policy; Lone Bucs May Pay
The Cincinnati Bengals became the latest team to decline the NFL’s new blackout policy. The policy drops the requisite for 100% of non-premium seats to be filled in order to locally televise home games to 85%, but many teams have deferred the new rule, claiming that it is not needed.
The Bengals have only sold out two of their last ten home games, but Bengals owner Mike Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer Tuesday that the goal is to sell out stadiums, not have fans watch games on television, and he is not looking to make the television option easier for fans. “We want the stadium full with 65,000-plus people. We don’t want to get to just 85 percent or 55,000”.
But why are teams like the Bengals, who struggle to fill stadiums, declining the new policy? Yes, as Brown alluded to, bringing fans to the stadium is the goal, but in many cases around the league, fans who are unable to afford games are unable to watch games on local television. Shouldn’t team officials want to spread their product to their local market at any cost?
The small print of the new policy and its financial implications surely explain why many owners are not open to this new option.
Many fans are unaware of a certain stipulation that is paired with this seemingly generous new ruling. Teams that agree to the ruling must pay 50% of their ticket revenue past the 85% mark with the opposing team. So, if a team accepts the rule and then end up selling out a game, they will have to pay 7.5% of their ticket revenue to the road team.
Only one team – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers – has decided thus far to take advantage of the NFL’s new blackout policy. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled with blackouts for the last few years more than any NFL team. But what if the Buccaneers – who look to be putting a better product on the field – start selling out games or get close to the perfect mark? Every game, in that scenario, would find the Buccaneers paying about 7% of their ticket revenue to all of their opponents.
So essentially, if the Buccaneers – or any other team who eventually decides to accept the new offering – sell anything over 93% of their non-premium tickets (but not sell out), it would be cheaper to just buy the rest of the tickets to avoid a blackout and reach 100% that way rather than paying the visiting team via the new policy.
The Buccaneers’ average attendance in 2011 hovered around 87% which, under the new rule, would allow locals to watch the game on television. The Bucs’ attendance should climb, though, as they’ve brought in an improved coaching staff and revamped their roster for 2012 and beyond: the Bucs will then have to pay up if that number starts to make its way toward 100% as it’s expected.
Other teams, including now the Bengals, won’t have to make such payments, but then again, if the stadium’s non-luxury seats don’t sell out, local fans who can’t attend the games will start scratching their heads why such a policy wasn’t welcomed as they aren’t able to watch their team on local television on Sunday.