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Super Bowl Preview: Blackout Rule Foes Take Pitch to Buffalo

The Sports Fans Coalition, which has been pushing the FCC to scrub its sports blackout rule, is taking out local ads on NBC and ESPN in Buffalo, N.Y., over the Super Bowl weekend seeking fan support for an end to the blackout.

The coalition wants MVPDs and satellite companies to be able to carry the games that broadcasters, by FCC rules, must black out in their local market if a game is not sold out 72 hours before game time.

The coalition picked Buffalo because three of its home games were blacked out this season because it is one of the smallest markets. It has just formed a chapter there.

Earlier this week, Rep. Brian Higgins from Buffalo took to the House floor to call for an end to the blackout. Higgins, along with fellow upstate New York Rep. Kathy Hochul and others spoke to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "asking for an end to this unfair policy." He said the league needed to update the restriction into account stadium and market size and the down economy. He pointed out that with one of the larger stadiums, but smaller fan bases, the Bills had to sell almost 6,000 more tickets than the league average to avoid blackouts.

Earlier in the week, the coalition sent an "open letter" to the National Association of Broadcasters questioning broadcasters' opposition to the blackout and echoing NAB's concern about the migration of big-ticket sports to pay TV.

The league has countered that waiving the rule would "undermine the retransmission-consent regime and give cable and satellite operators excessive leverage in retransmission-consent negotiations," providing "perverse" incentives to engage in "brinkmanship" to capitalize on the chance to air the games.