The National Football League has called time out on its blackout rule for local broadcasts for the upcoming the 2015 season.
The rule, which prevented local TV stations from broadcasting home games when the team fails to sell out the stadium, didn’t win the league any fans in Washington. Fans frequently complained to their representatives when the home game was unavailable on the local station.
A number of lawmakers in Congress were seeking additional ways to force the NFL to end the rule. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) had floated a bill last year called the FANS Act that would take away certain antitrust exemptions and subsidies unless the league ended the rule.
“This decision … brings us one step closer to eliminating this anti-fan measure once and for all. This antiquated, anti-consumer rule has for too long served only to protect the NFL’s bottom line at the expense of sports fans,” said Blumenthal in a statement released today.
The FCC eliminated its rule that banned cable and satellite providers from picking up the local games, but it couldn’t stop the NFL, which owns the rights to the games, from implementing its longstanding policy.
The need for the rule, adopted in the 70s, has evaporated. Last year, there were no regular season blackouts last year and only two in 2013.
The NFL will evaluate the policy after the coming season.