When the Detroit Lions' sellout streak at Ford Field came to an end in 2008, fans got to know the term "blackout" quite well. Because of the NFL's horrendous blackout rules, any game that wasn't sold out couldn't be televised locally. Because there were so few sellouts from the middle of the 2008 season through the first part of the 2010 season, Lions fans in the blackout zone missed quite a few games.
While the NFL claimed the blackout rules helped boost attendance, it was evident to me that all it did was cause fans to lose interest in a struggling franchise. It especially didn't help that amazing moments like the Lions ending their lengthy losing streak in 2009 and Matthew Stafford playing through a shoulder injury to beat the Cleveland Browns weren't on local TV, and in general it was just plainly obvious that the blackout rules needed to change.
It now appears that the NFL may finally be coming to its senses. According to the Wall Street Journal, a change has been made to the blackout rules.
Team owners have passed a resolution that starting this season will allow for local broadcasts of NFL games even when as few as 85% of tickets are sold. Under the new rule, each team has more flexibility to establish its own seat-sales benchmark as long as it is 85% or higher. To discourage teams from setting easy benchmarks, teams will be forced to share more of the revenue when they exceed it.
With the Lions improving so much in the last season and a half, not selling out games hasn't been an issue as of late. Even so, I still would like to see the blackout rules be completely abolished. The NFL is making a lot of changes to help boost attendance, as mentioned in the WSJ piece, and the league seems to be realizing that blacking out games isn't doing much to help their cause. The relaxing of the current blackout rules is a nice start, but at some point they should be just be eliminated altogether.