Team owners have passed a resolution that starting this season will allow for local broadcasts of NFL games even when as few as 85% of tickets are sold. Under the new rule, each team has more flexibility to establish its own seat-sales benchmark as long as it is 85% or higher. To discourage teams from setting easy benchmarks, teams will be forced to share more of the revenue when they exceed it.The league acknowledges that HD televisions are one of many reasons why fans would rather watch a game at home than at the stadium. And loosening the rule (amid political pressure) appears to make the concession to fans that they shouldn't have to buy expensive tickets if they want to see their team.
Except fans still need to buy tickets if they want their games televised - just not as many tickets as before. If the NFL was really serious about making games available to fans, they'd eliminate the blackout rule altogether. And allow/encourage teams to give away unused tickets to youth groups instead of having to "buy" them.
But without any blackout threat, fans might really be more likely to watch games from home instead of from $77 seats. This way, the NFL hopes to get the best of both worlds: ever-growing television revenues as well as ever-growing ticket revenues.
At least they're reportedly ready to make other improvements too, including instant replays for fans and wireless internet in the stadium.