During today's NFL league meetings, owners voted down the longstanding rule requiring home games to be sold out prior to 72 hours before kickoff in order for the game to be broadcast on local television. Instead, the league will roll without a policy, ensuring all games will be broadcast to local fans regardless of attendance. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Breaking: the NFL will scrap it's TV blackout policy for the 2015 season. Will evaluate how it goes after season. Teams voted on this today.— Kevin Clark (@KevinClarkWSJ) March 23, 2015
The NFL seemingly bowed to pressure from the federal government over their classification as a non-profit. New York Senator Chuck Schumer, for one, has openly criticized the NFL for taking taxpayer dollars and not broadcasting the games in the local markets. Buffalo was seen to have a disadvantage with a dwindling population and larger-than-normal stadium for the market size.
Another rumored reason for the change was the lack of NFL blackouts in 2014. There has not been a blackout in Buffalo since current owner Terry Pegula bought the team from the Ralph Wilson estate. The excitement of the new ownership and a playoff race certainly helped.
The last blackout in Western New York was in 2013 when the 5-9 Bills pushed their win total to six with a 19-0 drubbing of the Miami Dolphins. Bills fans dealt with nine blackouts in total from 2010-2013.
This rule change isn't permanent, however. The one-year agreement will be voted on again at the 2016 meetings.