U.S. FCC takes aim at sports blackout restrictions

“Look for an FCC vote on eliminating the sports blackout rule within the next two or three months,” John Eggerton reports for Multichannel News. “hat was the signal from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in a June 17 letter, according to a copy supplied to Multichannel News. Blumenthal, along with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has led the Hill charge to get the rule off the books.”

“In a letter to Wheeler June 4, Blumenthal and McCain had pushed for a vote, saying “‘Now that the comment deadline has long passed [it was in March], we urge the Commission to move forward expeditiously on eliminating the sports blackout rule (SBR),'” Eggerton reports. “The rule prevents cable and satellite operators from carrying games blacked out on local broadcast TV due to league contracts protecting stadium ticket sales. Eliminating the rule would not eliminate contractual blackouts, but would remove the FCC backstop.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Blackout restrictions deserve to die. What’s the point of team owners penalizing their team’s fans – most of whom are local, but will not ever pay to go to the stadium, much less for $15 beers – and penalizing their team’s advertisers (who cannot reach local, blacked-out fans) in this day and age? Spite? Stupidity? Both?


  1. It sounds like the FCC only cares about sports. The FCC has been destroying Saturday Mornings for kids for about a decade, yet they improve Saturday Nights for sports fans? They censor Japanese anime, so they can make it more American, and deprive kids of learning about other cultures. But they make it easy to watch sports. Yeah…nice one, FCC.

    1. Here’s the connection for you:

      Last year, I purchased the last week’s package of MLB’s watch it all live package. Or so I thought.

      Even having given them my money to do so, I was still unable to watch the games I wanted to watch, as they were blacked-out. I ended up still just using the At Bat app on my iPhone without getting to watch it on my Apple TV.

      That is stupid!!!!! In case you can’t tell, I’m still pretty p!ssed about it.

      1. The game blackouts are not at all an Apple-related issue. It’s not Apple’s fault that there’s a blackout restriction. This is the fault of the lobbyists who are responsible for the blackout restrictions.

    2. Joe, you’re an idiot. I can get MLB.TV, NBA.TV, and other sports channels on AppleTV but they’re blacked out if the local game isn’t sold out. I also can get things like NFL Sunday Ticket, which I can watch on my iPad, but a local game may be blacked out.

      I might go to one local NFL game this year. I go to a handful of baseball games, a game or two in the NBA, but mostly I watch on TV. The blackout restrictions won’t make me go to the game, because if a game is blacked out it almost certainly means the team is doing poorly and why would I want to pay all that money to see a bad product? Therefore the blackout restrictions don’t work.

  2. Since most Americans subscribe to cable or satellite for TV, they are already subsidizing the welfare queens that Pro Leagues have become. Watch it or not, you get to pay ESPN and others that hand the money over to the leagues.

    Besides, many cities already subsidize Pro sports with tax financed stadiums and all manner of sweetheart deals. Nothing but corporate welfare.

    No blackout rules, no tax subsidies for Pro Teams and no mandatory bundling that subsidizes pro sports.

  3. re: MDN’s take:

    I would go see lots of local games if I were actually local. My negative experience with the Texas Rangers being blacked out at the end of last year (see reply to CupertinoJoe’s comment above) is made that much worse by the fact that I live over 400 miles from Arlington. Texas is a big state, folks. Just because something is happening in the same state doesn’t mean I can be there at the drop of a hat.

    1. Oh, and the blackout restrictions would have *nothing* to do with me going to those local games. I would go when I actually wanted to go, and still watch other games on TV. Blackouts, even if I were local, wouldn’t drive me to any more games than I would attend otherwise.

    2. I’m in a similar situation. I’m a Red Sox fan, but Fenway Park is over 100 miles away. 100 miles might not seem like much, but it takes around 2.5 hours to traverse that distance due to traffic.

  4. I live 55 miles from my favorite baseball team. I was very inters tested in the MLB package until I found I could not watch them due to blackout restrictions for my geographic area by a team I care nothing about running on my local cable system.

    Blackout rules support monopolies. They should stop.

  5. All televised sports should be blacked out, as in all televised sports events should be “pay per view” on TV or Internet / Apple TV, etc,etc. & get them off free network television. If you go to the game, you pay per view. If you watch the game, you pay per view. Can’t pay? Go to a sports bar & watch it, they pay per view & you pay for food & drinks at the bar.

  6. Let’s not forget for the vast majority of the games, the stadiums were built with public tax payer money. The billionaires always find way to get Joe Blow to pay the cost (taxpayer money to build stadium) and then find ways to piss in the public’s face (blackout).

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