The NFL has become increasingly concerned about its customers choosing the comforts of their homes and high-def TVs over fighting traffic, paying big bucks, braving the elements and dealing with loutish fans to see games in person.
That is why the league has worked hard to improve the in-stadium experience, including the additions of vast video boards and frequent replays.
The trend presumably is at least in part behind a starting development this week: Three of the four wild-card games – in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and (gulp!) Green Bay have been slow to sell out and are threatened with local blackouts.
Playoff tickets often are a tough sell, coming as they do right after the holiday season and when the weather can be less than cozy. The forecast high for Green Bay Sunday is below zero.
Still, it’s the playoffs! The NFL hasn’t blacked out a playoff game since 2002, when the Ravens visited the Dolphins.
By game time all three games could be sold out, perhaps with help from local businesses. All three home teams were granted extensions Thursday by the NFL in hopes sellouts can be achieved by Friday afternoon.
If any of the games is blacked out, it surely will increase pressure from politicians to alter the current rules.
Last month the FCC voted unanimously for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would eliminate blackouts, but the vote does not preclude private contractual agreements that include such rules.
It’s complicated, and will get a lot more so if any of the games this weekend is unavailable to a home team’s fans.