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September 19, 2009 9:33 AM

Jacksonville goes dark; 3 NFL cities escape


A week after the Grill Room reported that up to 20 percent of the NFL games could be blacked out in home teams' markets this year, it looks like every host city but Jacksonville was able to escape the dark curtain this weekend.

Under NFL rules, a game must be sold out at least 72 hours in advance to be televised in the home team's local market.
Because of the challenging economic landscape, it is feared that many teams, especially those in hard-hit areas like Detroit, the Florida markets, and San Diego, might have trouble selling out home games this year.

We took our spotlight around the four NFL markets that were in jeopardy of going black this weekend, to bring light to our clientele at the GR on this dark subject:

In Jacksonville, the Florida Times-Union confirmed that Sunday's home-opener against the defending NFC champion Cardinals was going to be a no-show to the local market. The paper also raised the possibility that the team's remaining seven home games were in jeopardy of going black.

The local Fox affiliate in Jacksonville will be showing the Carolina-Atlanta game to its viewers in place of the Jags-Cards tilt, and the CBS affiliate will fittingly show the movie, "Hollywood Homicide," in the time slot.

Besides penalizing locals, who for one reason or another simply can't attend (or afford?) the game, the Times-Union also raised another significant consequence of the blackout -- the loss of advertising dollars to the local affiliate that is restricted from showing the game.

Jeff Whitson, general manager and vice president for both the local CBS (WTEV) and Fox (WAWS) affiliates, was quoted in the paper as saying this about the lost revenue:
“It’s a pretty good hit because the Jaguars ratings are twice what we’d get for another game.

"When our clients buy a Jaguars game, they expect a certain rating that we can deliver. When we have to put their spots in another NFL game, they’re going to come up short, and we have to make good on that by putting them in some other shows.”

Lost revenue generally means lost jobs, no?
Not good.

In Detroit, the Free Press reports that the Lions made it just under the wire when they were granted a 24-hour extension to get rid of the 1,700 tickets still available as of 1 p.m. Thursday -- the league-wide deadline for ticket sales.

The Lions host the Vikings on Sunday.

The struggling Detroit franchise had sold out 50 straight games before the TV sets went dark against the Redskins Oct. 26, 2008. Detroit locals were unable to watch any of the their team's remaining home games the rest of the year.

So far so good this year, though another rotten start by the Lions could put the home TV games in peril this year.

In San Diego, it's been more than five years since a Charger game has been blacked out, but the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that the team met its ticket-selling requirements in the nick of time, so that Sunday's game against the Ravens can be shown on the tube locally.

Both of the Chargers home exhibition games were blacked out this year.

In Miami, The Herald reports this morning that only a couple of hundred tickets remain for Monday night's game against Indianapolis, so the league is satisfied that the game will be a sellout and thus available on TV to South Floridians.

The rest of the cities hosting games this weekend are in good shape.

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