When the Buccaneers announced they had chosen the 85 percent benchmark in accordance with the NFL's new blackout policy, it was met with excitement locally from fans who have witnessed 13 of the last 15 home games being blacked-out. And despite the Buccaneers averaging 86 percent capacity last season, that number is somewhat misleading, and will not guarantee the blackouts are a thing of the past.
While the news that the Buccaneers decided on the 85 percent figure as the ticket sale threshold to avoid blackouts for the 2012 season was met with much enthusiasm, the excitement level should perhaps be tempered just a bit.
Based on official paid attendance numbers for each game obtained by PewterReport.com, even if the 85 percent benchmark was in place last season, the two nationally televised games would have been the only two games to be broadcast locally.
The overall number of tickets sold (396,300) divided by the seven homes games does in fact equal 86 percent, which seems to be enough to avoid the new blackout policy, however the number was skewed by the two nationally-televised games, which were both sellouts.
Here is a breakdown of each individual home game and the attendance figures along with the percentage based on a capacity of 65,857.Detroit Lions
51,274 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 77.8 %
46,995 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 71 %
Indianapolis Colts (Monday Night Football)
63,972 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 97%
New Orleans Saints
56,590 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 85.9 %
56,037 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 85.0 %
56,270 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 85.4%
65,162 paid attendance
Percentage of capacity: 98.9 %
While five total games did in fact reach the new blackout avoidance threshold, if you take away the Colts and Cowboys games you are left with only three games (Saints, Texans, Panthers) that made the mark. However, all three were within 600 tickets sold of reaching the 85 percent. Add in the fact that you can be certain between the 72 hour deadline and kickoff of those games, at least 600 tickets were sold, it is a safe bet that those three would not have qualified based on the new rule.
On the positive side, PewterReport.com believes season ticket sales are ahead of last season’s pace therefore meaning fewer individual tickets will need to be sold in order to avoid blackouts.
The Buccaneers have also overhauled their ticket pricing structure this offseason, which should make it somewhat more affordable for those looking to attend home games.
"We hope that this move, along with lower ticket prices, starting at $30 for adults and $15 for children, will lead to more televised Buccaneer home games this year," said Vice President of Business Administration Brian Ford.
The NFL has seen attendance drop over the last several seasons and understands that several factors have contributed to the decline. Ticket prices league-wide have risen despite economic woes that still plague the country. That combined with the advancements in technology with high-definition televisions, the Sunday Ticket and home theater systems has caused the NFL – and the Buccaneers – to stand up and take notice and it appears both are willing to be proactive in finding a solution.
In additional Tampa Bay’s marketing team has already announced free parking in select lots and half-priced concessions for the season opener September 9 against the Panthers to coincide with veteran cornerback Ronde Barber’s 200th consecutive start.
While it hasn’t been announced or confirmed, rumblings are that the Buccaneers may also have some other similar promotions during the year.
And lastly – and maybe more importantly – the product on the field is expected to be much improved. After a 4-12 season, which included 10 straight losses and the most points surrendered in franchise history (494), it was clear a complete overhaul was needed. The Glazer family, after being lambasted by fans and the media over the last three years, did in fact open their wallets bringing in top-tier free agents like Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. Add in the new regime of Greg Schiano and his staff, and the excitement level for most fans rivals that of the post Super Bowl season.
The impact of the blackouts has not only affected fans but also the local economy to a degree. Sports bars and restaurants have been hurt by the blackouts over the last two seasons. Dave Bush, manager of Bobalouies Grille and Sports Garden is happy about the possibilities of more home games being televised.
“We are really excited about the new rule (blackout policy),” Bush said. “The more games that are broadcast will help bring in new customers and clientele which obviously helps us be successful. We support the Bucs and are really happy that more games might be seen locally.”
While the 85 percent new threshold, combined with the above mentioned franchise recommitment should help, there is still no guarantee that all eight home games will be broadcast locally. Aggressive marketing, promotions and a team that the Tampa Bay community can rally behind in terms of community involvement and likeability will make a big difference, and a few wins will go a long way to help fill Raymond James Stadium again.
Below is a list of the Buccaneers' home games.
Week 1: Sun, Sep 9 - Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay, 4:15 p.m. ET (FOX)
Week 4: Sun, Sep 30 - Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay, 4:15 p.m. ET (FOX)
Week 6: Sun, Oct 14 - Kansas City Chiefs at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Week 7: Sun, Oct 21 - New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Week 10: Sun, Nov 11 - San Diego Chargers at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Week 12: Sun, Nov 25 - Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Week 14: Sun, Dec 9 - Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Week 16 : Sun, Dec 23 - St. Louis Rams at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
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