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NFL suspends local blackout policy for 2015


The NFL has suspended the long-standing local blackout policy for the 2015 season, the league announced Monday.

The NFL will re-evaluate the rule after going through the season.

The blackout policy was instituted in the early 1970s when NFL teams relied primarily on ticket sales to generate revenue. The rule stated that if a game wasn't sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff, they would be blacked out in the local TV markets.

NFL teams have successfully made significant efforts in recent years to minimize blackouts. There were zero regular season blackouts last year and only two in 2013, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

The NFL is the only sports league that televises every one of its games in local markets on free, over-the-air television.

The Federal Communications Commission also came out recently against the blackout policy. In September 2014, the FCC repealed its sport blackout rules. The order eliminated FCC reinforcement of the league's blackout policy, but it did not affect the league's ability to maintain and enforce the blackout policy through contractual arrangements with programming distributors.

With the proliferation of booming television deals and increased public funding of stadiums, the NFL has decided to run a season without the policy in place and analyze whether the lack of a blackout threat drastically alters ticket sales in certain markets. 

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