Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Detroit officials have kept quiet recently on the subject of ticket sales, but it’s safe to assume the Lions face the prospect of multiple local television blackouts of home games this season. If that’s the case, the NFL is providing a decent alternative for Detroit-area fans. (And possibly for Minnesota's as well.)
The league announced Thursday that it will stream blacked-out games on a delayed basis at NFL.com at no charge. It’s not ideal -- the earliest you can start the stream is midnight on the day of the game -- but it’s the best you’re going to do with a league intent on protecting the sanctity of its game-day experience. As my AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky points out, the NFL’s top priority is to sell out stadiums. If it waives the blackout rule (games must be sold out to be televised locally), it removes a big incentive to buy tickets.
I’m going to be interested to see how far the league will test that theory. These days, I would think ticket decisions are based more on economics that commitment from fans. Multiple blackouts will also diminish advertising revenue for local television stations and, in some cases, their national affiliates. Will the television industry start pressuring the league for a new rule if we start seeing a blackout or two every weekend?
We’ll have to wait to find out. Thursday’s announcement confirms the league is expecting a significant uptick in blackouts. If you’re a fan of one of the teams affected, at least you’ll be able to see those games -- eventually.