The National Football League (NFL) announced Monday the suspension of a long-standing TV blackout policy for the 2015 season.
The policy, which was instated in 1975, blocks local TV stations from broadcasting NFL games if fewer than 85% of the seats have had been sold 72 hours prior to kickoff, according to the NFL’s rules.
At the time, NFL teams had relied primarily on ticket sales for revenue.
“With the proliferation of booming television deals and increased public funding of stadiums, the NFL has decided to run a season without the policy in place and analyze whether the lack of a blackout threat drastically alters ticket sales in certain markets,” according to NFL.com.
NFL teams have taken steps to prevent the number of blackouts in recent years, with zero regular season blackouts in 2014 and only two in 2013, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Still, ticket sales have been low in cities including Jacksonville, Fla., Oakland, Calif., and San Diego, Calif., the Associated Press reports.
The NFL’s suspension of the policy follows heavy criticism of the blackout rule through the decades. In 1972, the NFL famously denied a request by former President Richard Nixon to lift a hometown blackout on a Washington Redskins game in 1972. Just last year, the Federal Communications Commission expressed opposition to the NFL’s blackout policy.