Bucs embracing new NFL blackout measure

Bucs embracing new NFL blackout measure

Published Jul. 16, 2012 5:00 p.m. ET

Getting fans back into the seats at Raymond James Stadium is the name of the game for the new-look Tampa Bay Buccaneers and first-year head coach Greg Schiano.

But giving folks the chance to watch more Bucs home games on TV has suddenly become part of the playbook, too.

The Bucs have announced plans to take advantage of the NFL’s recently passed measure that reduces the percentage of general admission ticket sales required to avoid local blackouts of home games.

That’s a potentially big deal. The upshot is that any 2012 Bucs home game that sells 85 percent of non-premium tickets will be televised locally, as opposed to the 100 percent previously needed.

Under the previous rules, a team needed to sell out its general admission seats — in this case, the 51,000-plus such seats at Raymond James — at least 72 hours prior to game time. With the new standard in place, the Bucs only have to sell just less than 44,000 general admission tickets in order to avoid a blackout. That would no doubt delight their fans, given that 13 of the past 15 home games in the past two seasons fell short of a sellout and were consequently not televised locally.

Last year, the Bucs filled their 65,000-seat stadium to roughly 87 percent capacity, which bodes well for surpassing the new 85-percent threshold.

While the Bucs jumped at the chance to address the blackout problem, other NFL teams — including the Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts and Buffalo Bills — passed.

The Titans decided against it since they’ve sold out their home games for 13 consecutive seasons. Other clubs aren’t thrilled with a potential downside to the arrangement: Any team that gets hot and begins to start selling out home games will be required to split revenue with the visiting club on all tickets sold beyond 85 percent capacity. Some teams clearly don’t want to go down that road.

But the Bucs, conscious of mending fences with their fan base, have taken several steps to create renewed interest and good will, both at the turnstiles and now over the airwaves.

"We hope that this move, along with lower ticket prices, starting at $30 for adults and $15 for children, will lead to more televised Buccaneer home games this year," Vice President of Business Administration Brian Ford said in a statement.

The Bucs have already announced a plan intended to sell out the Sept. 9 home opener against NFC South rival Carolina. The initiative offers free parking in select lots, half-off food and non-alcoholic concessions, as well as a giveaway celebrating Ronde Barber's 200th straight start.