Explain football (sports) blackouts to me.

I don’t understand the reason for blackouts for pro sports. I live in the DC area, so I get all DC channels. I could if I wanted to point my antenna towards Baltimore, but there’s no real reason to.

So anyway I was watching the CBS pregame show. While I’m not a real fan of football it is nice to have on while playing with the baby. CBS says that they four different games on depending on where you live. Ok, I understand that. However, when 1pm came around they went to infomercials. Why? There was the Baltimore game on, plus the others, even if they didn’t want to show the Baltimore game they had others to choose from.

This is the second or third time I’ve seen this happen. I’ve been told before it’s for ads, but wouldn’t the station make more showing a football game over some infomercial? I’ve also seen at times a black screen basically saying, Due to blackouts we can’t show anything. They could have at least shown something couldn’t they?

So what gives? Why not show the games. And does this mean that in Baltimore they didn’t show the Skins game on the local Fox network?

Basically, I believe, the local networks have the rights to the local sports teams’ broadcasts. So if a local team’s game is being broadcast on a national network, the game will be blacked out on the national network and, if applicable, carried on the local network which runs the team’s games instead.

For the NFL, a home game must be sold out, or close to it by Thursday before a Sunday game for it to be shown on TV locally. The Raiders are notorious for not selling out before this season. I’m not sure on the percentages of tickets sold, it might have changed recently.
Away teams get their games on TV back in their home market unless something else keeps it off.
The reasoning is that local sports fans should go to the game if they can get tickets, and only watch on TV if the game is sold out. An alternative view would be a nearly free ~3 hour commercial for the product in the stadium.
In the early '90’s my family bought pay-per-view coverage of all Portland Trailblazers home games. A select few home games, and all away games were also shown on local TV.

Was there a game on Fox opposite the infomercials on CBS? Every Sunday, Fox and CBS split the 1:00 and 4:xx games. One of those networks shows two games, and the other shows only one. In Reno this week, I got two games on CBS (CIN @ BAL and DEN @ PIT) and one on Fox (MIN @ SF). During the first game, Fox was showing something else - Simpsons reruns, infomercials, movies starring the Rock… I don’t know. That’s just how the TV contract is set up - each week, one of the stations is guaranteed to have three hours of the only game in town. I assume they’ve worked it out between themselves in the TV contracts.

Blackouts are different. Games are blacked out in a team’s home market when the game isn’t sold out. So if the Redskins don’t sell out Fed Ex Field next week (fat chance!), you won’t be able to watch them on TV. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the network is allowed to substitute another game for the home market one - the policy is designed to punish football fans for not going to the games.

Depending on where you live in the DC are, there might be another wrinkle. When I used to live just outside Annapolis, I’d get both Baltimore and DC stations there. Often, the same network will show different games in different markets. For example, the Baltimore market would be more concerned with AFC games, while the DC affiliate would opt for NFC matchups. During the best of times, I’d have four games to choose from: Baltimore CBS, Baltimore Fox, DC CBS, and DC Fox.

For the most part, yes. The Baltimore networks are more likely to show games that affect the Ravens. Their first choices wil probably be AFC North matchups, but if they’re expected to be dogs (like say, Cleveland at San Diego), they’ll go to other conference games - especially games that involve playoff contenders.

If you want to see what games you’ll be getting in advance, check this site:


You got blacked out of the 1:00 game on CBS because Washington played at home Sunday, and games can’t air opposite a home game for your local team.

There’s two different things going on here, which is basically what enginerd was saying.

  1. There’s a normal “blackout”. If your team is playing at home and they don’t sell out the stadium, you don’t get the game locally.

  2. Then, there’s the kind you hit yesterday. When a network that doesn’t have the double-header is showing your local team, the network that does have the double header isn’t allowed to show a game opposite your game. I’m not sure if this only pertains to when your team is playing at home.

Re: 1) In Maine, we used to get a Patriots game even if they weren’t sold out, but people in Boston would get blacked out. It’s as if we weren’t responsbile for their selling out.

Re: 2) If your team is on the station with the double-header, they still won’t show a game opposite your team. For instance, Wash-Dallas was definitely FOX’s premiere match-up, but instead we got the SF-Minn game because they wouldn’t show a game opposite the Ravens.

There are places around here (e.g. Columbia) that get DC and Baltimore feeds. They get a lot of football choices.

So this happens when the home team is playing then? I guess that makes sense, but I still think it’s dumb. But did you get two games in Baltimore then? I would have thought that they would have shown some other game since CBS said there were four other games going at once.

I may be misunderstanding what you two are saying, but I think your statements are wrong. So please offer a cite to support it.

My contradiction: I live in the Twin Cities area. Yesterday that had only one noon (1:00 EST) game - The Dolphins at the Bears on CBS. But they had two 3:00 (4:00 EST) games - Vikes at SF on FOX and Broncos at Pitt on CBS. So yetserday CBS aired a game opposite the Vikes playing on FOX.

When the Vikings play home games, they are on at noon locally, usually on FOX. And many times CBS airs a game opposite that, regardless of which network has the doubleheader.

Could this rule that you’ve stated vary by market?

I think what Trunk is saying is that a station won’t replace a blacked-out game with another game, only random, crappy programming in its place.

When I went to the University of Maryland I remember getting two games at 1pm and usually 2 games at 4pm. That’s because we would get both Washington DC stations and Baltimore stations. Same thing where I live now. When I lived closer to NYC there would be one game at 1pm and one at 4pm, either the Jets or the Giants. If either team had a bye or was playing Monday night you get the top game of the week. Now I live out near PA and get both NY stations and Philly stations. Many times I get four games on Sunday.

Never get effected by blackouts since the local stadiums are always packed.

The Vikings were in San Francisco yesterday. Therefore, the blackout rule didn’t apply to the Minneapolis-St. Paul market.

You had two 4:00 games because your home team was playing at 4:00, so your Fox affiliate didn’t choose the 1:00 WSH-DAL game.


At Wiki, I found this. . .The Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens are served by separate media markets, and so they can play at the same time (and if at home, viewers in that team’s market will only see that game).

So, that kind of looks like it’s saying that because we’re in Balt-Wash (and able to pick up each other’s TV signals), we might be subject to blackouts that other markets are not. That’s probably what happened to EdTeHead, and why I thought it was a national rule.

I understand why FOX didn’t carry the WSH-DAL game. I’m saying I disagree with the statement that that networks won’t carry games opposite your home team.

However, garygnu may have cleared it up for me. Are you saying that networks won’t carry other cames in place of blacked out home games. To me, the word “opposite” means “on another network at the same time” in this context, and that is where I am disagreeing.

So I may just be disagrreing with you on semantics, not concept.


He was responding to my claim that you might not get the double header game if YOUR team is playing at home.

But, it looks like what I was saying might only apply to DC-Baltimore.

The wiki page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NFL_on_television has other information about Giants/Jets and Oakland/SF rules. It looks like DC-Balt might be an odd ball.

THAT, I don’t know.

I can’t remember the last time the Ravens were blacked out.

What I was saying was that they would black out half a double header if your home team was playing on the non double-header station opposite the double-header. But, it looks like this mght just be a DC-Baltimore thing, and ONLY when Ravens/Skins are both at home. Which was the case for Ed yesterday. Because CBS had the DH, it didn’t affect me. If FOX had the double-header, use Baltimorons would have only get one FOX game.

This link disproves my earlier statement about not replacing games. They do replace blacked-out games. My mistake.
Still, NFL blackout rules are stupid and don’t do what they’re supposed to do.