NFL eases local TV blackout restrictions for upcoming season

The NFL has relaxed local television blackout rules, a league spokesman confirmed to and NFL Network on Saturday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the change, which team owners approved in May at the NFL Annual Meeting.

Home teams now will have the option of selling 85 percent of game tickets to avoid a blackout in their local TV market. Previously, teams had to sell out games or receive an exception from the league for the game to be shown on local TV.

The change comes as league-wide attendance has declined over the past five years, the newspaper said.

Lowering the blackout threshold also is a matter of how revenue is shared, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.

"It's optional if clubs want to do this and would only affect a few teams," McCarthy said in an email. "Last year only 6 percent of games were blacked out in a local market. This figure is down significantly from 15 to 20 years ago when 25 to 30 percent of games were routinely blacked out."

The blackout rule originally was meant to spur fans to attend games.

"If a team chooses to do so, it may set its capacity number needed for a blackout to be lifted at 85 percent of overall capacity," McCarthy added about the new rule. "More revenue than usual will be shared with the visiting clubs for tickets sold above that base number."

At the same meeting, owners also voted to add high-speed wireless Internet to all stadiums in an effort to add home-like services to the game-day experience.

"We believe that it is important to get technology into our stadiums," Goodell said in May. "We have made the point repeatedly that the experience at home is outstanding, and we have to compete with that in some fashion by making sure that we create the same kind of environment in our stadiums and create the same kind of technology."

The league also will begin showing the same replays in stadiums that game officials see when reviewing plays, the Wall Street Journal report said.

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