For those hoping Bears fans would stay away from Soldier Field in order to keep Jay Cutler off their TV sets, you’re out of luck.
The NFL decided Monday to suspend their television blackout policy for the upcoming 2015 season only, and it would be reviewed again after the season. This means all games will be available to TV viewers, regardless if the game is sold out or not.
The blackout policy dates back to 1973, when the NFL gave teams 72 hours to sell out their games, or they won’t be shown in the market the team plays in (before 1973, home games were not televised into the home market at all.)
With the NFL growing in popularity, there were no blackouts in 2014, and just two in 2013. Compare this to the mid-1980’s, when 40 percent of games were blacked out on home TV. The shrinkage of blackouts basically had a lot to do with reducing the number of minimum of tickets sold to avoid one.
Very few teams – the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Green Bay Packers have sellout streaks dating back to when the rule was enacted, meaning no home TV blackouts.
The Bears have a sellout streak dating back to September 1984, though in the late 1990’s, they came close to not selling out before the deadline a few times. In the last few years, the only blackouts have occurred in Tampa, Oakland, San Diego, and Jacksonville.
The FCC decided to eliminate its sports blackout rules last year, even though the NFL’s existing policy wouldn’t be affected. The move was opposed by not only the league, but others including the National Association of Broadcasters, local stations, and leaders in the African-American community (including Illinois’ three black congressmen), featuring a decline in attendance would lead to a loss of jobs.
Meanwhile, the NFL also announced it would exclusively stream a game this fall from London between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars and with the exception of their home markets, would not broadcast the game terrestrially. The game takes place on October 25 at 9:30 a.m., Eastern Time.