Blumenthal rails against Bills vs. Dolphins blackout

The blackout of the Buffalo Bills-Miami Dolphins game Sunday prompted Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to press his campaign to end the blackout of sports games on television.

In a joint press conference Friday with Rep. Brian Higgins, a Democrat who represents Buffalo, N.Y., in Congress, Blumenthal said an “outdated, really dinosaur” federal law from the 1960s allows blackouts of games on broadcast television, cable and computers when tickets to an event are not sold out.

Buffalo Bills CEO Russ Brandon confirmed the Bills vs. Dolphins blackout earlier this week, because about 16,000 tickets for the game remain unsold.

Last month, Blumenthal introduced the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports (FANS) Act in the Senate that would end an antitrust exemption that allows sports blackouts – which he says are no longer needed to protect the financial interests of sports teams.

Blumenthal said teams no longer make most of their money from ticket sales, but through marketing and television sales, and blackouts now serve to “strengthen the negotiating positions” of sports leagues like the NFL when they enter into contracts with broadcasters or cable companies.

Blumenthal said he’s heard from broadcasters and cable companies that want an end to blackouts, but also from “fans and consumers.”

“This is an issue that is very near and dear to my heart,” Blumenthal said.

Higgins has introduced a similar anti-blackout bill in the House.

“The NFL occupies a very rarified position, “ he said. “They want to do what they want to do when they want to do it.”

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously this week to abolish the leagues’ rights to blackout games. But the FCC’s rule won’t be final or enforceable for months.

Blumenthal said his legislation is still needed to completely eliminate the professional sports anti-trust exemption and “eliminate the ability for the FCC to change its mind again.”

 

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