NFL to lift blackout rules for 2015 season

Mar 23, 2015

The NFL announced Monday that it will suspend the long-standing local blackout policy for the 2015 season. The league said it will “re-evaluate” the rule after the season. 

Outside Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park.
Credit WBFO News file photo

The controversial blackout policy was first started in the early 1970s.  If an NFL game is not sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff, the game is blacked out in the local television markets.

Last September the Federal Communications Commission voted to life the rule, but the NFL did not make an immediate change.

Western New York congressman Brian Higgins has been leading the charge for years to do away with the blackout rule.

Higgins issued a statement commending the NFL's decision to suspecd the policy.

“For many years, I have stood up against the NFL’s unfair and outdated blackout policy, which kept fans who have supported their teams – both emotionally and financially – in the dark on game days. Over the last three years the momentum has shifted, including recent action by the FCC to repeal its blackout rule.  Today we learn that the NFL is removing their blackout policy for the 2015-16 season, a decision that is long overdue.  This is the right move for the league and for the game. The fans spoke, the league listened, and this season everyone will be able to tune in to support their favorite team," stated Higgins.

In 2012 Higgins began to push back against the sports blackout policies, first writing to the Federal Communications Commission asking they consider eliminating their blackout rule followed by a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking for the league to end its policy. 

Higgins often spoke out against how the rule hurts a smaller region like Buffalo because Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park is one of the largest in the league, seating 73,000 fans.

"That means the Bills have to see 6,000 more tickets in the second smallest NFL market," Higgins said.

Higgins has also noted in past remarks on the blackout rule that ticket sales are no longer a team's primary revenue source and the NFL is only hurting itself by opposing a rules change.  

In 2012, Higgins appeared on the House floor pleading for a change.

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to discuss an issue of great importance to Western New York– the Buffalo Bills," said   Higgins.