Under the NFL’s “blackout policy,” games must be sold out by 72 hours before kick off. If not, they’re blocked from all regional programming within a 75 mile radius — this includes cable television, NFL Sunday Ticket, and even nationally syndicated Sunday Night Football.
The policy has been in effect since 1973 as a way to boost ticket sales, the argument being that if people are given the option to watch on television they will forgo the stadium.
Last week, thanks to a 24 hour extension, the Raiders were able to sell out their opener against the Chargers. The Raiders have had two games blacked out each season since taking over ticketing sales from Alameda County in 2006.
I imagine that television broadcasting is not the only factor affecting ticket sales. I would argue that rising ticket prices in the wake of a recession might have a certain impact. In 2005 the NFL lifted its blackout ban in New Orleans after Katrina. We’ve just experienced an economic hurricane, and one would imagine the NFL would consider a similar policy. Tickets average $75 a game these days, and that’s just not an item that most struggling families’ budgets can handle.