I saw that “The FCC has voted unanimously to eliminate the sports blackout rules” was the top headline on r/sports this morning, and like most people, I got excited. Even if your team isn’t often blacked out, there’s no upside to the possibility of TV blackouts for fans (except schadenfreude toward fans of blacked-out rivals).
The move comes as changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether it is in the public interest to maintain the blackout, particularly at the current price of a ticket and the state of the economy. That was then acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn’s argument for teeing up the item for a vote during her busy tenure.
Cool! A government agency acknowledged that tickets are expensive and that blackouts are bullshit, and did something! Great.
The elimination of the rule does not mean that sports leagues and broadcasters–or cable operators or satellite operators–can’t strike private agreements that include such blackouts.
And as you likely know, sports commissioners (who, remember, work to protect the interests of team owners) suck and only care about profits, and are typically in favor of TV blackouts, because they encourage ticket sales.
Likely, blackouts will still exist for now.
But, there’s also this:
“However, we’re concerned that today’s proposal may hasten the migration of sports to pay-TV platforms, and will disadvantage the growing number of people who rely on free, over-the-air television as their primary source for sports. Allowing importation of sports programming on pay-TV platforms while denying that same programming to broadcast-only homes would erode the economic underpinning that sustains local broadcasting and our service to community.”
The NFL agrees and has argued that getting rid of the rule would “undermine the retransmission-consent regime and give cable and satellite operators excessive leverage in retransmission-consent negotiations.”
This all makes sense. It’s intuitive that sports subscription packages are coming, especially online-streaming versions. These things are potentially both good and bad, depending on your own circumstances and the intricacies of what actually happens, so, we’ll just have to wait and see.
There’s only one thing we don’t have to wait to see: that sports commissioners suck.