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NFL to FCC: Leave Sports Blackout Rule Alone

The NFL has told the FCC not to tinker with the sports blackout rules, which prevent cable or satellite providers from carrying an NFL game when the over-the-air broadcast is blacked out due to lack of attendance at the game.

That came in comments in the FCC's retransmission-consent proceeding and in response to the Sports Fan Coalition call for waiving the blackout rule during retrans impasses.

The coalition wants the FCC to waive the rule so that viewers would have alternative outlets for league games if broadcasters pull their signals during retrans stalemates.

"[T]he Commission would allow sports fans to watch a local game they otherwise would be unable to view, while spurring the broadcast and pay-TV companies to reach a negotiated solution," the coalition argued in its initial comments in the proceeding.

In reply comments filed Monday, the league countered that waiving the rule would "undermine the retransmission-consent regime and give cable and satellite operators excessive leverage in retransmission-consent negotiations."

The league proceeded to put an even finer point on it, saying a waiver would hurt the consumers it was advertised as helping and would "gut the purpose of the rule and create perverse incentives for MVPDs to engage in brinksmanship tactics in order to take advantage of the proposed exception."

Rather than helping fans, the only constituency that removing the blackout would favor would be pay-TV providers, the league said.