NFL Relaxing Blackout Restrictions. Sort Of. Kinda

Doubtless, you’ve heard about the perils facing the Jacksonville Jaguars and other teams who have failed so miserably in their ticket sales for the 2009 season that they’re facing a season-long blackout. Well, nobody really wants that - fans want to be able to see their local team, of course, and franchises would obviously love to sell out by any means necessary. But that’s not the road several teams are on, so here comes the misery.

NFL is Old News
(”This touchdown was yesterday!”)

Not so fast, though, says the NFL; they’re willing to provide the games for free viewing after all, what with this lousy economy and all. There’s just one teeny tiny little detail that we’re sure nobody’s going to have a problem with; these games won’t exactly be, y’know, live.

As NFL.COM announced today, you’ll get your games, you ungrateful bastards; it just won’t be until midnight:

The league’s new NFL Game Rewind package on NFL.com will make all games available on an on-demand, subscription basis throughout the 2009 regular and postseason. However, games blacked out locally for failing to sell out 72 hours in advance will be available on NFL.com at no cost in the affected home markets.

This seems pleasantly fair, considering the economic struggles of several teams and all. But the NFL is a giant entertainment business, and their primary objective is to screw us until our anuses are bleeding.

These free “re-broadcasts” locally of blacked-out games will be available at NFL.com beginning at midnight on the day of the game and remain available for 72 hours (except during ESPN Monday Night Football telecasts).

And there we go.  The games aren’t going online until Monday morning at 12:00 a.m., so unless you’re a college student or unemployed, odds are you’re not going to be staying up for that. Then, thanks to more arcane rules about broadcast rights, you can’t watch the game online a day after the fact during Monday Night Football, which means people with regular 8-5 jobs probably aren’t going to be able to catch their games until Tuesday night. And if they’re busy Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, then screw ‘em, because then the games go offline. Way to nurture the fanbase, for real.

As usual, Roger Goodell put on his best sad clown face and offered this to fans:

“We understand that the economy is limiting some families and corporations from buying as many game tickets as they had previously,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “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.”

This is all fine and good, of course - as we mentioned before, the NFL is still a business and money tastes as good to them as it does to you or me -  but the restrictions are likely going to force a few blacked-out fans away from fervent interest in their team and the NFL. When that happens, interest takes years to return, if at all; remember how badly baseball struggled until it had to turn to steroids to bring it back? Remember how the NHL still can’t get a decent TV deal? Fans are fickle, and money’s tight. It’s not a threat, it’s just the economic reality of when people are forced to make changes as to how they spent disposable time.

If the NFL has priced itself out of range for too many fans, then without serious concessions and bringing tickets down to their real value to fans, interest is going to slump. The blackouts will only exacerbate the problem, not bring it back from the brink.