The NFL narrowly avoided the embarrassment of local TV blackouts for a trio of wild-card playoff games this weekend—but only thanks to a coalition of business allies willing to pony up the cash to purchase thousands of unsold tickets. ESPN with the details:
Fans and a group of Packers corporate partners, led by Green Bay-based Associated Bank, purchased the remaining available tickets Friday. The Packers began the week with 40,000 tickets available. ...
Meijer, a corporate sponsor, purchased the final 1,200 tickets to the [Indianapolis] Colts' home game against the Kansas City Chiefs and has donated them to local military families, the team said in a statement. ...
According to the [Cincinnati] Bengals, corporate sponsors Kroger and Proctor & Gamble bought "thousands" of tickets Friday to keep Sunday's first-round AFC playoff game against the Chargers from being blacked out in the Indianapolis market.
Under NFL rules, games need to sellout 72 hours before kickoff to ensure they're televised in local TV markets. The league, which requires playoff seats to be sold at face value, however, reserves the right to grant teams extensions to meet that sales mark—something they needed to do for three of this weekend's four wild-card games. (The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, managed to sellout their game in a matter of minutes.) Local TV blackouts are something of a rarity for the NFL: They only happened twice during the 2013 regular season, and the last time a playoff game failed to sell out was back in 2002 when the Miami Dolphins hosted the Baltimore Ravens.
No doubt one major reason why many fans will opt for a seat on their couch this weekend instead of one in the stands is because of the winter weather currently wreaking havoc on many parts of the country. The Packers faithful who bought tickets, for instance, are facing the very real prospect of temperatures more than 20 degrees below zero.
Still, as the Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz made a strong case for earlier today, perhaps the problem is less about the fans' devotion and more about the unusual business rules on display by professional sports leagues. "Sports have got to be the only business where the consumer gets blamed for poor sales," Kravitz wrote today. "Any other business, we'd look at the numbers and say, 'Well, their price point is too high,'' or 'The service stinks' ... it's ridiculous. NFL fans are the most loyal fans we have in this country. If they're not purchasing playoff tickets, that tells me it's an NFL problem, not an Indy/Cincy/Green Bay problem."