NFL Sunday Ticket Blackouts to End Next Year

The NFL will finally end its stupid blackout rule for those who shell out the big bucks for NFL Sunday Ticket:

Paul Zimmerman reports,

Great news for DirecTV fans. In a blind fury because Sunday’s Miami-Tampa Bay game was pre-empted by CBS (to bring us the end of Pittsburgh-Jacksonville) and then not made available on the dish right away, resulting in a total blackout, I started making my usual round of maniac calls. The NFL’s Director of Media Services and Technology, Seth Palansky, told me the following:

“Next year there will be no more blackouts. As a service to the fans who own satellite dishes, they will be able to pick up all games on the dish, even those that are carried nationally or in their own area by network TV.” Yaaaay! (If it really happens.)

The current rule really is ridiculous. For example, this week’s game between the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs was moved from Sunday afternoon to tonight in anticipation of Hurricane Wilma. Fans in both cities will be able to see the game, regardless of whether the stadium is full. But no one else, not even those who paid $200 or so for NFL Sunday Ticket in order to ensure they can see every single game, will since Sunday Ticket–as the name implies–only shows Sunday games.

I have bought the package the last four seasons because I want to make sure I can see every Dallas Cowboys game, figuring it’s worth the money to see the six or seven games I would miss otherwise with only sixteen games on the schedule. The problem is that, if the game is shown in the local market, it’s automatically blacked out on Sunday Ticket. This makes it aggravating to TiVo and, in those not-so-rare instances when the Cowboys are playing the late game and the early game runs long, I miss the start of the game. What a stupid policy! Especially since the games are simply the national network feed, complete with commercials.

Update: Of course, as noted by Rick Harmon, the NFL has a history of rigidity on these matters:

NFL Shows Fans It Doesn’t Care (Tampa Tribune)

Once again, the National Football League has found a way to stick it to the fans. With many Dolphins fans living in the Tampa Bay and Orlando areas, one would think it would be a no-brainer to televise tonight’s rescheduled Chiefs-Dolphins game in these markets. Not a chance.

As Orlando fans learned last week when the Dolphins-Bucs game wasn’t available because Orlando is a “secondary Jaguars market,” the NFL really doesn’t care what the fans want. “The NFL has a long-standing policy of not interfering with high school and college football,” said Seth Palansky, NFL publicity manager. “This is the first time we’ve played a game on Friday night. This is not a national game. We have rules and we don’t change them.”

[…]

It just doesn’t make sense. WTSP, Channel 10, was scheduled to air the game Sunday and would have jumped at the chance to carry tonight’s game. There are plenty of Dolphins fans here — and possibly some evacuated from South Florida.

The game won’t be available on DirecTV either on the “NFL Sunday Ticket.” The game will air only in Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers markets, along with Kansas City and Topeka, Kan. Palansky said the NFL is looking for a way to replay the game on Sunday.

Quite bizarre. I wouldn’t have watched the game tonight, anyway. But tens of thousands of fans likely would have. It’s a shame they won’t get the opportunity because of an arcane rule.

Update: Meanwhile, Chiefs fan Jason Whitlock is mad at the league for another reason:

Chiefs-Dolphins game should be played in Kansas City (KC Star)

After consulting Michael Brown’s FEMA playbook, NFL commish Paul Tagliabue decided the safest thing for everyone involved would be to hold a football game in the middle of hurricane evacuations. Now, had one of Janet Jackson’s exposed breasts been headed for Miami, I’m sure Tags would’ve moved the Chiefs-Dolphins clash somewhere safe, away from a possible eye-gouging nipple.

[…]

Perhaps Tagliabue was too busy to watch the Houston highway chaos created by the threat of Hurricane Rita. Maybe Tagliabue is unaware of the impact Hurricane Katrina and the Superdome disaster has had on Americans’ reaction to hurricane warnings. Yes, Florida has experience dealing with hurricanes. But things are different now. If the storm projections are accurate, the whole Miami area will be wrapped in fear and potential chaos by this evening.

A football game at Joe Robbie Stadium is an open invitation for increased traffic problems. Local residents are concerned with evacuating or boarding up their homes, so you have to wonder whether the stadium will have enough employees to have regular security and a full staff of service personnel. And why have law-enforcement officials concern themselves with a football game when I’m sure there are far more pressing concerns?

[…]

Is Tagliabue concerned about the criticism he received from the Saints because he made them play a “home” game at Giants Stadium? A commissioner has to have the courage to do what’s right. The right thing here would have been to play in Kansas City. Yes, the Dolphins would have whined about the Chiefs gaining home-field advantage. So what?

Friday night’s game is likely to be sloppy. Neither team has had time to install its full game plan. You can’t prepare for a football game with just two days of practice_Wednesday and Thursday. Friday is generally a day for teams to lighten the workload on players and give their bodies a chance to recover. In protecting Miami’s home-field advantage, Tagliabue’s decision has actually greatly accentuated the Dolphins’ advantage. The Chiefs are going to step off a plane from a three-hour flight about six hours before kickoff. Is this fair to the Chiefs, who have traditionally played poorly in Miami?

While Whitlock is right about Janet Jackson’s nipples, he’s wrong on moving the game. Why should the Dolphins be denied the revenue and home field advantage from one of only eight home games a year? To the extent the game should have been moved to another stadium, it should have been Jacksonville or elsewhere in the region, not the opponent’s home. Making the Saints play a “home” game in New Jersey was unconscionable; repeating the error would have been worse.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Scott says:

    As a Dolphin fan, I find not being able to watch the game on Sunday Ticket tonight highly annoying. Also, James, I’d like to thank you for this info — since I could not readily find it from the news sources I usually check. Glad you popped on Google News.

  2. Scott in CA says:

    I’ve never understood why a private company, such as a sports team, has the power to regulate what is shown on local TV. Here in the Bay Area, the citizens of Oakland and Alameda County have wasted a fortune on land and facilities for the Oakland Raiders. But because ticket sales are low, the people who paid for the team and their stadium are blacked out and unable to see what they paid for. Sports teams should have NO say in where their games are broadcast, if they ARE broadcast. We even have NFL lawyers here in CA telling bars to turn off a game that’s coming in over the air from another city where it isn’t blacked out. Who gives the NFL the authority to tell a barkeep what channel to put his TV on? This ridiculous special treatment for sports needs to end. Along with subsidies, publically financed stadiums, etc. Build it yourself, guys.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Scott in CA: The NFL owns the broadcast rights to its product and sells them with conditions. Football games are a private good, not a public one. The NFL has the right to control who gets its signal every bit as much as it has the right to deny entrance to the stadium to those without a ticket.

    If a barkeep legally obtains a signal, he can watch whatever game he wants. He can’t, however, charge people to watch a game the he’s accessing for “his own personal use,” though. He can likely purchase the rights to do so.