Nathaniel Grow

The NFL blackout rule could soon be only a memory. It's elimination s the first item at the Federal Communications Commission's meeting next month. To help make sense of what the blackout rule's ouster could mean, Boston NPR affiliate WBUR called on Nathaniel Grow, an assistant professor of legal studies at Terry.

The rule, which prohibits cable companies from airing NFL games when they aren't sold out, applied to only two of last year’s 256 regular season games. To skirt the rule in the postseason, local businesses in Cincinnati, Green Bay and Indianapolis bought hundreds of tickets and gave them away for free.

But the blackout rule is not about local businesses. Instead, Grow said, the NFL’s bottom line is what's really at stake.

“One way or the other I think the NFL views it as ‘it’s going to cost us something to maintain it. Whereas now the FCC rule gives us the presumption that we don’t even have to negotiate over it, potentially,’” he said.

The NFL is the only major sports league that shows most of its games on free TV. But, Grow warned, there’s nothing in the FCC rule that requires the NFL to keep it that way.

“Even if the FCC were to maintain the rule, if ESPN comes along and offers $20-gazillion for the rights to every single NFL game, they’re probably going to go to ESPN and you’re not going to see them on over-the-air television,” Grow said.

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