In a move that will come as good news to football fans in Los Angeles, the NFL has decided to take a "fresh look" at their secondary market television rules and will "likely" show the ending of close games in Los Angeles instead of sticking to league policy by cutting away from a televised game before it is finished to show the start of a San Diego Chargers road game.
A league source said Thursday if the Los Angeles market were airing a close game with the outcome still in the balance there was a "very good chance" the local affiliate wouldn't leave the game until it was decided.
It is the first time the league has decided to tweak what had been a very non-negotiable rule regarding primary and secondary television markets for over 35 years. Los Angeles is the secondary market for the Chargers and league rules require "all secondary markets must carry in their entirety all road games of their local team."
"When situations like this arise in the future, we will take a look at them," NFL spokesperson Dan Masonson said. "We always review our policies and seek ways to improve them."
The Chargers are deemed Los Angeles' "local team" and therefore a "secondary market" because "its affiliates' TV signals reach within 75 miles of the Chargers stadium," Masonson said.
The NFL decided to re-think its television rules after it forced local station KCBS 2 in Los Angeles to leave the final 27 seconds of the Oakland Raiders-Buffalo Bills game last Sunday to show three minutes' worth of commercials and the opening introductions of the Chargers-New England Patriots game.
At the time of the cutaway, the Raiders were holding a 35-31 lead but the Bills drove down and scored the game-winning touchdown with 14 seconds left on a fourth down pass, leaving Raiders fans in Los Angeles furious, not just because of the outcome but due to their inability to watch it live.
The two upcoming games that will likely be affected this season from a Raiders fans' perspective are in Week 5 on Oct. 9 when the Raiders play the Houston Texans at 10 a.m. followed by a Chargers road game at the Denver Broncos at 1 p.m. and in Week 11 on Nov. 20 when the Raiders play the Minnesota Vikings at 10 a.m. followed by a Chargers road game at the Chicago Bears at 1 p.m.
In both of those occasions, as well as others that might arise in the future, the league will monitor the early game and see if the result is still in question before deciding to leave it for the late game.
Arash Markazi is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.