NFL Rule May Black out Packers, Bengals Playoff Games

Sen. Sherrod Brown, FCC want football black out rule ended.

The San Diego Chargers will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 1:05 p.m.

The San Diego Chargers will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati on Sunday, Jan. 5 at 1:05 p.m.

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This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.

The Cincinnati Bengals avoided a TV black out of their upcoming game against San Diego. Kroger, a supermarket chain, and Procter & Gamble, whose brands include Tide, Gillette and CoverGirl, bought enough tickets to sell out the stadium on Friday and ensure the game will be aired. 

This story was updated at 2:51 p.m.

Corporate partners for the Green Bay Packers, including Associated Bank and Wisconsin affiliate TV stations,  purchased the remaining available tickets Friday to sell out the stadium in time for the deadline and ensure a broadcast according to the sports team. 

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This story was originally posted at 12:39 p.m.

The winter weather is bearing down on the Midwest, but football fans in some cities might not be able to watch the playoffs from a warm living room, as a 40-year-old federal rule may black out some local TV broadcasts of games because of low ticket sales.

The rule states if a National Football League team does not sell out stadium tickets by Thursday, the local broadcast of that game is blacked out. Home stadium playoff games of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Green Bay Packers may be blacked out from broadcasts this weekend if tickets do not sell out, although the NFL extended this weekend's ticket sale deadline to the end of the day Friday.

The Indianapolis Colts narrowly avoided a black out of their game broadcast Friday after the Colts corporate partner Meijer supermarket chain purchased 1,200 tickets for Saturday's playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs with plans to donate them to local military families, according to the Colts.

[OPINION: NFL Playoffs Highlight the Absurd ‘Black out Policy]

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously accepted a proposal in December to eliminate the sports black out rule, with plans to make a final vote on the matter in the first half of 2014. FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said the rule may have outlived its usefulness from a time when TV was not as popular as going to stadiums. "Changes in the marketplace have raised questions about whether these rules are still in the public interest, particularly at a time when high ticket prices and the economy make it difficult for many sports fans to attend games," Clyburn said in a release.

Bengals fan Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Thursday, "The NFL should do everything it can to ensure that the Cincinnati Bengals [Sunday] playoff game is not blacked out."

"Fans, through local taxes, often help pay for the stadiums," Brown said in a statement. "They should be able to cheer on their local teams, especially during the playoffs."

Maintaining stadiums is expensive for pro sports teams also, according to the NFL, which supports the black out rule because it gives people an incentive to buy tickets as TV becomes more popular. The NFL has decreased the number of games that were blacked out locally in 2013, having only blacked out two so far this season. In 2012, 15 games were blacked out, while 16 were blacked out in 2011.

 

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