I Hate the NFL Blackout Rule – But I hate the FCC More

NFL Blackout RulesI just read an interesting story about how the Federal Communication Commission thinks they need to be involved in deciding when the National Football League broadcasts its games.

The NFL has a series of rules in which if the home team does not sell a certain number of tickets then the game cannot be broadcast in the home team’s market. This blackout includes fans who paid for the NFL Season Package either through their cable provider or internet provider.

I’m of the opinion that the NFL policy is misguided because they should desire to expand their audience, not decrease it. Even when most games were not televised on multiple outlets I think the rule was a mistake. The idea of the blackouts are to promote ticket sales by forcing people to attend the game. In the modern age the NFL is essentially shutting out a large segment of potential viewers when they do this.

The NFL is coming around to my way of thinking and has reduced the sellout rule down to 85% sales of what are called non-premium seats. They also now allow the selling of blocks of tickets at discounted rates to avoid the blackout. These new rules have meant that not a single game in the NFL has been blacked out this season. This is capitalism at work.

So now the government is getting involved. A year ago Senator John McCain of the Grand Canyon state of Arizona originally proposed a bill to force the NFL to televise all games and now the FCC is getting involved. The FCC’s argument is that those who cannot afford tickets should not be punished. What, what, what?

Those who cannot afford tickets don’t attend games, that’s the law of economics. If the NFL wants to prevent people from watching the game on television then that’s their own, misguided, business decision to make.

If a person can’t afford to see a first run movie should the studio be forced to televise it? If I can’t afford to get HBO should the network be forced to show the program over the airwaves? This is government nonsense at its worst.

Don’t mistake me, I think the NFL is better off showcasing its game on as many outlets as possible. I think content providers should release their media as broadly as possible so as to have more people watch it. This builds a loyal fan base who will watch content, buy merchandise, and see advertisements. The only reason I know about Australian Rules Football, Archer, and 20/20 Cricket is because they were released on Hulu and ESPN3.

When content providers practice to limit their audience they hurt only themselves. That being said, it’s not the government’s job to prevent a company from making stupid business decisions. When the AFL pulled their games from ESPN3 they lost me as viewer. Likewise when FX pulled Archer from Hulu. That’s their decision to make.

We Libertarians often get criticized for hating government meanwhile happily enjoying roads, appreciating teachers, police officers, firemen, parks department employees, electricity, plumbing, and many of the other things governments provides.

We don’t hate government, we just want to see it limited to the areas of its purview. When it gets involved in things like this the end result is usually bad for everyone. This NFL Blackout/FCC story isn’t the most egregious of violations but it is typical of an overreaching government that tries to right all wrongs.

Maybe they’ve got better things to do?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Ideology
Current Release: The Spear of the Hunt
Next Release: The Broken Throne

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