Colts shouldn't risk blackouts

The Indianapolis Colts are making a mistake by risking blackouts at Lucas Oil Stadium this season.

They could set a lower blackout bar and have their games on local TV even if only 85 percent of the seats at LOS are sold. Currently they’re 2,000 season tickets short of full, and in about a month they’ll sell what’s left as single games tickets. (Details of their approach have been spelled out by the Indianapolis Star.)

If the Colts don’t meet the old blackout number of 62,437 they won’t be on local TV. They aren’t setting the blackout number any lower than it was set for them in previous years despite an adjustment to the rule that allows for them to do so.

It’s a complicated decision that requires them to predict how tickets will sell. It has significant financial implications. I agree with Bob Kravitz of the Star that fans have been too quick to bail.

But a team that’s been good for a long time and expects to return to prominence in short order is taking a risk by increasing the chance of being blacked out.

Games on local TV are the single best marketing tool a team has.

The Colts’ 2012 home schedule isn’t filled with marquee guests. If they don’t fill up LOS for some of them, they lose that tool and give their base an excuse to watch something else. And watching something else provides the first steps in a path away from the Colts.

If the team rebounds from its rebuild quickly, that’ll soon be forgotten. But if the Colts' bounce back is slower than they anticipate, they will be making it increasingly easy for people in and near Indiana to look to alternatives. And once someone is satisfied with an alternative, it will be an entirely different -- and difficult -- process to win them back.

Chuck Pagano plans to field an aggressive team, and he and his staff will have to measure risk and reward as they write game plans and call plays. The administrative side of the franchise feels it has measured risk and reward in deciding not to lower the sale ceiling for avoiding blackouts.

If they wind up with blackouts, they’ll also have a black eye.