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FCC's Sports Blackout Rule No Longer in Play After Nov. 24

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 28, 2014 11:48 AM

The Federal Communications Commission has repealed its sports blackout rules, calling the regulations "outdated."

In a press release, the FCC announced that it was doing away with rules that prohibited cable and satellite operators from airing sports events that had been blacked out on a local broadcast station. That rule may be most commonly associated with NFL games; the NFL's current policy requires local stations to black out games that does not sell a certain percentage of tickets 72 hours before the game.

How will this rule change affect blackouts in your area?

Private Blackout Agreements Still Valid

Unfortunately for sports fans unable to watch their teams play due to blackout agreements, the FCC's rule change may not be of too much help. That's because blackout agreements between sports leagues and programming distributors entered into contractually will still be allowed.

In addition to the NFL's ticket-sales percentage-based blackout rule, other leagues have their own rules for when games may be blacked out. In markets where a local station has exclusive rights to broadcast a team's game, those games may not be available even on league-wide sports packages such as Major League Baseball's MLB Extra Innings package. Blackouts also may be caused by two networks both having broadcast rights to the same game. In that instance, one network's exclusive distribution rights in a given area may require the other network to black out that game in that area.

What to Do If Your Team's Games Are Blacked Out

The FCC recommends that consumers who experience a blackout in their area contact the broadcast channel to determine why the blackout was made and "register your viewing preferences," hopefully without the use of too many expletives. Viewers should also contact the sports team or sports league.

The FCC's repeal takes effect November 24th.

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