If football is America’s favorite sport to watch, why is the National Football League continuing its policy of blacking out games in home markets, especially in this tough economy?
A number of teams could face several blackouts this season in their markets if they don’t sell out their games 72 hours before game time. Teams that appear to be in the most trouble are Jacksonville, Detroit, Cincinnati, Oakland, St. Louis, Kansas City, San Diego and Miami.
The poor economy is keeping fans from spending money on tickets as much as they used to, and corporations won’t be as willing to bail teams out by purchasing remaining tickets.
Of course, money is the driving factor. The NFL wants its stadiums full for the TV networks that pay billions of dollars in rights fees to the league, and teams want the ticket revenue.
“It’s a balance of trying to fill our stadiums, and also trying to stay on free television,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said recently on ESPN’s Mike & Mike show. “Television loves to show a stadium that’s full with a great deal of enthusiasm. So it’s been a balancing act. But our focus over the last year has been how we attract people. What is it that’s causing people not to come to the stadiums, whether it’s behavior in the stadiums, or whether its ticket prices.”
Ticket prices increased this year by 3.9 percent (an average of $74.99) but 21 teams kept prices the same or lower. Dallas, which has a new $1.2 billion stadium to pay for, has an average ticket price of $159.65.
The NFL offered a little relief for fans by announcing that games that are blacked out will be shown on a delayed basis starting at midnight on the day of the game on the league’s Web site at NFL.com. The games will be shown at no charge over a 72-hour period, except during Monday Night Football.
“We understand that the economy is limiting some families and corporations from buying as many game tickets as they had previously,” Goodell said in a statement. “These free re-broadcasts on NFL.com will allow our fans that can’t get to a blacked-out game an opportunity to see the entire game.”
Networks’ broadcast teams: A wealth of experience will flow from NFL television analysts again this year, with a variety of former coaches and players. Here’s a look at some of the broadcast teams this season:
“NFL Today”: Hosted by James Brown, with analysts Dan Marino, Bill Cowher, Boomer Esiason and Shannon Sharpe. CBS’ top broadcast teams include: Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf; Dick Enberg and Dan Fouts; Jim Nantz and Phil Simms.
“FOX NFL Sunday”: Co-hosted by Curt Menefee and Terry Bradshaw, with analysts Howie Long, Jimmy Johnson and Michael Strahan. Top teams will be Joe Buck and Troy Aikman; Ron Pitts and John Lynch; Chris Myers and Trent Green. Former NFL players Lynch and Green are new to the team this season.
“Sunday Night Football”: Hosted by Bob Costas with former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy, former Chargers and New England safety Rodney Harrison, Tiki Barber, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick as analysts. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth (replacing John Madden) will team up for the broadcast.
Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski will be joined this season on Monday Night Football by former Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, who replaces Tony Kornheiser. A fear of flying grounded Kornheiser.
Former NFL player and Detroit Lions general manager and team president Matt Millen will join Bob Papa in the booth for the NFL Network games that will be telecast beginning Thursday November 12.
Madden returns to football: Although John Madden retired as a broadcaster earlier this year, it didn’t mean that he was done with football. Madden will be an unpaid special adviser to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
The league announced that Madden will advise Goodell on “matters pertaining to the game, including competitive issues, coaching and personnel development, technological innovations, player safety and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
In his statement, Madden said: “When I retired from broadcasting, I didn’t retire from my passion and interest in the game. This position enables me to continue that.”
AFL 50th anniversary
This season marks the 50th anniversary of the old American Football League, and the NFL will celebrate by having the original eight AFL teams play each other, totaling 16 games, on “AFL Legacy Weekends.” In those games, teams will wear throwback jerseys.
The original eight AFL teams are: New England Patriots (originally Boston Patriots), Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs (Dallas Texans), Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans (Houston Oilers), San Diego Chargers (Los Angeles Chargers), New York Jets (New York Titans), and the Oakland Raiders.
Copyright © 2009 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.