The NFL Gets It Backward

It started as a bad idea and, over the course of a generation, it didn’t age well.

I’m talking about the Federal Communications Commission’s Blackout Rule, which was implemented in 1973 for the National Football League. It says a lot of things, but to sum them up if a team doesn’t sell out its stadium by 72 hours from game time, broadcasters in the local market can’t see the game.

Why? To improve ticket sales, of course.

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that this rule was originally created to appease the crotchety, old so-and-sos who owned NFL teams at the time and who were suspicious of newfangled technology like TV.

In 2013, it’s even worse because, of course, the broadcast of a game is the best commercial possible for buying tickets to it. We talk about this a lot, and it’s true: Generating phony scarcity doesn’t work. Creating actual demand does. If people SEE a great event (as opposed to not being able to see it and, therefore, potentially not even knowing it exists), they’re more interested in it. And if they see the many, many tens of thousands of people at the event having a great time, it will be a seed that ultimately grows into ticket sales.

The alternative is obscurity, being ignored or just having people move on to other things.

The rule is a bad idea, but it still gets implemented. The people of Buffalo, for the sin of not going out into the horrible December weather to watch their mediocre team late in the season at the stadium THEY — the taxpayers — paid for, were punished by also not being able to watch it on TV.

Fortunately, the winds of change are blowing here: The FCC is ready to dump the rule, and the NFL, while officially still opposed, doesn’t seem likely to uphold it if it’s no longer government-backed.

Repeat it with me: Exposure is good for ticket sales. More people seeing a good product makes MORE PEOPLE BUY IT.

True for the NFL; true for all of live entertainment.

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