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McManus: NFL Won't Lift Blackout Rule

Don't look for the NFL to lift its broadcast blackout policy anytime soon, or for CBS to expand its Sunday football pregame show.

That is according to CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus on a conference call with reporters Wednesday to talk about Sunday's (Sept. 11) kickoff of CBS coverage, now in its 52nd year.

A reporter opining over the number of blackouts for the Jacksonville Jaguars' and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' games -- broadcasts are blacked out locally if the stadium is not sold out 72 hours before game time (with a few exceptions) -- asked whether McManus thought NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell might be open to modifying the policy.

McManus said that the league and the commissioner have been "pretty insistent" that the rule, over the course of its lifetime, has been good for the league, its broadcast partners and the teams. He said Goodell has been pretty firm in his commitment that "you don't make adjustments in the short term." The issue has come up as the down economy took a toll on attendance, particularly for struggling teams.

McManus said he, too, thought the blackout rule has been effective "by and large," and said he does not think the NFL has any intention of lifting it, though he added CBS does not have a say in the matter. "I don't see a lot of flexibility on the part of the NFL to change or adopt a different method," he said.

As to whether CBS Sports might expand its pregame show to an hour and a half or two hours, perhaps to include some fantasy league elements given its popularity, McManus said CBS Sports thinks about it a lot, but that he didn't see that expansion happening either.  He said while he would love to it, CBS Sports was boxed in. In the morning, there were popular network news programs, Sunday Morning and Face the Nation, and on the local level by affiliates and O&O's with commitments to local religious and public acess programming, saying religious programming was particularly important to some stations. In the evening, a post-game expansion was off the table given the single most successful news program in history, 60 Minutes.

On the call, CBS also announced that it was adding former New York Jet and Carolina Panther Kris Jenkins as a contributing analyst for its studio show, NFL Today in selected weeks, as well as to Showtime's Inside the NFL. His first appearance is planned for week two of the season.