Open Content: FCC removes its sports blackout rule

Content is paramount in the Internet, fostering broadband adoption and driving relevant changes across the ecosystem. Guaranteeing stable, predictable and fair policy rules is in the benefit of the content industry, distributors, network operators and consumers.

Today, good news come from the USA, where restrictions to the distribution of sport contents have been eliminated. The FCC has removed the 40 years old Sports Blackout rule, which prohibited cable and satellite operators from airing a sport event that had been blacked out on a local broadcast station. NFL (the US National Football League) policy requests local broadcasters to blackout any sport event if 72 hours prior to the event tickets sold have not exceeded a certain threshold. By the FCC banning of this blackout rule, cable and satellite providers will be able to deliver the sport event to their customers even if local broadcasters do black out the event.

Although some restrictions still apply to local broadcasters, pay TV companies and customers will have a more predictable outlook about the games they will be delivering or watching.

The industry has changed profoundly. Whereas by the time the rule was implemented ticket sales represented the vast majority of an NFL team’s overall income, now, television rights contribute to the majority of teams’ revenue.

Tom Wheeler, FCC chairman, has stated that NFL teams have hidden behind a FCC rule to blackout sport events, but this is no longer going to be the case. People will now know who allows blackouts, and it will not be the FCC, while at the same time he urged NFL to “seize on this opportunity to repudiate blackouts” (on local broadcasters).

Once this rule is officially repealed, some 30 days after a notice of the FCC’s action is published, the blackout rule will be voided. So, in about six weeks US citizens will enjoy a more Open Internet ecosystem, with Open Contents.