With 13 of the past 15 home games blacked out over the past two seasons, a recent change of heart – and policy – by the NFL, may make home blackouts a thing of the past.
The days of not seeing Tampa Bay Buccaneers home games on local television may soon become a thing of the past. According to a report Saturday in the Wall Street Journal and the Tampa Bay Times, the league has changed their blackout policy. Instead of requiring a complete non-premium ticket sellout 72 hours prior to kickoff, the change will allow blackouts to be lifted if 85 percent of tickets are sold.
The Buccaneers averaged 56,614 in their seven 2011 regular-season home games, which equates to 87 percent capacity. 13 of the last 15 home games at Raymond James Stadium have been blacked out
The Buccaneers aren’t the only team struggling to fill their home stadium, as attendance throughout the NFL has dropped 4.5 percent since 2007, the Wall Street Journal reported. Season ticket waiting lists, (the Buccaneers once bragged of having a waiting list in excess of 50,000), have become a thing of the past. According to the WSJ report, season tickets packages are available on the websites of 20 of the league's 32 teams.
The Buccaneers did a stadium wide season ticket price reduction for the most part entering this upcoming season. Prices were reduced for 80 percent of the seats at Raymond James, with the other prices remaining the same for a fourth consecutive season. The Buccaneers have also offered a zero-interest, 10-month payment plan in hopes of increasing their season ticket base.
Bucs co-chairman Ed Glazer addressed the ticket price lowering campaign last November.
"Listening to our fans, the overwhelming recommendation they made is more value and more options between the most affordable seats and the most exclusive," Glazer said.
Many reasons are thought to be at blame for the reduction in league-wide attendance, but maybe none more than the home experience people can get with the increase in high-definition television sets and home theaters.
The at-home experience has gotten better and cheaper, while the in-stadium experience feels like it hasn't," Eric Grubman, who is the NFL's executive vice president of ventures and business operations, told the Wall Street Journal. "That's a trend that we've got to do something about."
The NFL change in the blackout policy may have also been a result of several local and national legislators taking on the outdated blackout policy, which originally took effect in the 1970’s.
The Buccaneers declined to comment according to the Tampa Bay Times, but in addition to the lowering of season ticket prices, the organization has been proactive in increasing attendance, as seen last week when the team announced the home opener against the Panthers on September 9 would include free parking in selected lots along with 50 percent off of concessions in conjunction with honoring long-time Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber's 200th consecutive start.
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