NFL compromises on blackout rule

Affected games will be available via delay in local markets

The National Football League has made somewhat of a concession to its blackout rule Thursday, announcing it will make all affected games available in the local markets via tape-delay.

Beginning at midnight Monday, or anywhere from 11 to eight hours after opening kickoff, the league will stream the blacked-out games in their entirety on NFL.com for no charge.

All delayed Webcasts will be available for streaming for 72 hours. Rebroadcasts will not be offered for ESPN's "Monday Night Football" telecasts, and while those matchups generally sell out, the 2009 schedule does include home games set in such at-risk markets as New Orleans and Minneapolis.

Per the NFL's long-standing blackout rule, games are not telecast in markets in which the local franchise fails to sell out its home stadium 72 hours before kickoff. The rule applies to all TV outlets, including broadcast, cable and satellite.

Blackout restrictions also apply to the NFL Network, which runs a slate of eight games in the latter half of the season. Among the at-risk games on the NFL Network schedule are a Dec. 17 Colts-Jaguars meeting and a Dec. 24 Cowboys-Saints duel.

"We understand that the economy is limiting some families and corporations from buying as many game tickets as they had previously," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "These free rebroadcasts on NFL.com will allow our fans that can't get to a blacked-out game an opportunity to see the entire game."

Last season, only nine of the NFL's 256 regular-season games were blacked out because of underperformance at the gate, but the recession has put more teams (and fans) at risk. Given the impact of the economic meltdown, as many as 10 franchises may face insufficient ticket sales this season.

On Thursday, the NFL granted the Bengals a 24-hour deadline extension -- until 1 p.m. Friday -- for selling out its home game Sunday against Denver.
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