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NFL asks FCC not to change sports blackout rules

In comments for the FCC retransmission consent proceeding, the National Football League has asked the commission not to tamper with sports blackout rules. Those provisions block pay-television providers from carrying an NFL game when the over-the-air broadcast is blacked out due to lack of attendance at the game.

The NFL’s comments came in response to the Sports Fan Coalition’s suggestion that the blackout rule be waived during an impasse over retransmission issues. The fan’s organization wants the FCC to override the blackouts so that viewers will have alternative outlets for league games if broadcasters pull their signals from the pay-television provider.

“The commission would allow sports fans to watch a local game they otherwise would be unable to view, while spurring the broadcast and pay-TV companies to reach a negotiated solution,” the coalition argued in its comments.

In the reply filed last week, the NFL countered that waiving the rule would “undermine the retransmission-consent regime and give cable and satellite operators excessive leverage in retransmission-consent negotiations.”

It would, the NFL argued, hurt the consumers it was advertised as helping and would “gut the purpose of the rule and create perverse incentives for MVPDs to engage in brinksmanship tactics in order to take advantage of the proposed exception.” The only group that removing the blackout would favor would be pay-TV providers, the league argued.