In 2009, the Jacksonville Jaguars became synonymous with the word "Blackout." If not for a massive civic movement to sell out their Thursday Night game vs Indianapolis, every game would've been blacked out and attendance would've been in the 40,000's all year. It turned the "Jags to LA" movement into a firestorm and was a source of embarrassment for Jaguar fans everywhere.
As the 2010 preseason continues along, it seems plenty of other teams will be dealing with blackout issues this year. The Bengals, Rams, Buccaneers, and Chargers have already had at least one preseason game blacked out so far. Throw in teams like the Bills, Raiders, and Lions that usually flaunt with blackouts, and it appears to be another long year for several franchises.
The Buccaneers may be in a worse position than the Jaguars were, from a ticket sales stand point. They will get some relief, as the Steelers and their insane fanbase come to Tampa in Week 3. Also, the Saints come to town in Week 6. But besides that, expect every other game at Raymond James to be half full.
The Bengals and Chargers consistently need the extensions to the NFL's 72 hour policy to get home games on TV last year, despite both being Division champions. What happens if either team has sub par seasons?
For the NFL as a whole, this may end up becoming a much larger issue. Although blackouts were common even after Congress forced the NFL to broadcast home games in the 1970's, it became something of a non-issue. During the 1990's and earlier this decade, games were rarely blacked out. It was simply assumed that every game would be on TV. However, as the economy continues to recover at a snails pace, season tickets have become a luxury more and more people are deciding to go without.
In addition, as plasma and LCD TVs become bigger and cheaper, it's provided direct competition for NFL ticket offices. Simply put, a 50 inch HDTV that'll look good for a decade now costs about the same as two NFL season tickets. As NFL broadcasts have gotten much better at capturing the feel of a game, many have decided that the traffic, crowds, and $8 beers just aren't worth it anymore.
This is already being seen with the New York Jets panicking to sellout their new co-op palace. When a team that's playing in the biggest media market in the world can't get their games on TV, something is going to be done.
What is going to happen? I'm not sure. I believe the NFL will at some point move to a "Pay Per View" model for blacked out games, but any kind of change will be a ways off.
In short, during 2010, plenty of other teams besides Jacksonville will be worrying about blackouts. This may end up being the season that will cause the NFL to rethink it's blackout policy.