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NFL eases broadcast blackout rule

American football’s National Football League has relaxed its broadcast blackouts rule, which blocks US sports events from being shown live on television in their local market unless all tickets to attend have been sold.

Under the adapted regulations, home teams will be given the option of adopting a new threshold of an 85-per-cent sell-out in order to avoid a blackout.

“It’s optional if clubs want to do this and would only affect a few teams,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Last year only six per cent of games were blacked out in a local market. This figure is down significantly from 15 to 20 years ago when 25 to 30 per cent of games were routinely blacked out. If a team chooses to do so, it may set its capacity number needed for a blackout to be lifted at 85 per cent of overall capacity. More revenue than usual will be shared with the visiting clubs for tickets sold above that base number.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars have all been the subject of blackouts in recent seasons.

The original ruling was established to encourage fans to attend games, but the NFL has come under pressure in recent months to scrap the regulation. The league was forced to defend its position in a February filing to the Federal Communications Commission, the country’s media regulator, following a petition from the Sports Fans Coalition, which represented five supporter groups.