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FCC lifts blackout rules

After 39 years, San Diegans will no longer have to worry that home Chargers games will be blacked out on Satellite and TV.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fans in San Diego are very familiar with the threat of missing a few televised games a season. In fact, there have been 3 blackouts the past 3 years, and a handful more last-second lifts of blackouts. These occurrences have left people lamenting the stadium and declaring that San Diego "just isn't a sports city." Well, as of this morning, blackouts are no longer legal.

The FCC had maintained black out power since 1975. Through individual negotiation with networks (cable and satellite) and the sports teams/leagues, rules were set forth mandating the minimum number of tickets sold for a game to be televised. This number generally ranged from 85-100% depending on the team. In 2012, the NFL relaxed its league-wide requirement of tickets sold down to 85%. The Chargers did not opt follow suit, choosing instead to require 100% of non-premium tickets be sold. This decision was made by three other teams (Bills, Browns, Colts), and allows the teams to contribute less to league-wide revenue sharing. There were also rules in place to purchase tickets at 34 cents on the Dollar, which spurred many last second ticket purchases by large companies (Union Bank, Donovan’s, KFMB, Sycuan, etc.) to avoid blackouts.

This morning, the FCC followed through on an effort started in 2012 to eliminate what it is characterizing as an "anti-fan" practice. The blackouts were viewed as an abuse of a system set in place when ticket sales earned far more for the team than lucrative television deals. This paves the way for examining the anti-trust exemption the NFL carries regarding which networks can carry which games. This may mean that teams could negotiate individual deals with networks.

Keep an ear out for further news with the next NFL Owners' meeting, and rest assured that you will be able to watch Chargers games on TV for the rest of the season.