Cincinnati Bengals Could Benefit from Relaxed TV Blackout Rules in 2012

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Cincinnati Bengals Could Benefit from Relaxed TV Blackout Rules in 2012
John Grieshop/Getty Images

As first reported by Kevin Clark of The Wall Street Journal, the NFL is relaxing the local TV blackout rules for the 2012 season.

The old rules said a game would be blacked out on local television if the team did not sell all of its tickets or receive a special exemption from the league. The new rules stipulate that a team only needs to sell 85 percent of tickets for the game to be aired locally.

The announcement should come as welcome news to Cincinnati Bengals fans, who fell victim to blackouts in six of Cincinnati's eight home games in 2011.

Before you start decorating your man cave orange and black, stocking the fridge with cold ones and calling up your buddies to schedule game-day bashes, there is something you should know: The new rules would not have reversed a single Bengals blackout last season.

Bust out your calculators. It's about to get mathematical.

Paul Brown Stadium contains 65,535 seats. Under the relaxed blackout rules, the Bengals would have to sell about 55,700 tickets to hit the new 85 percent mark. They only hit this number twice last season, in games against the Steelers and the Ravens.

These AFC North showdowns were the two home games in 2011 that were broadcast locally last season. Even these games were not completely sold out, but I suppose a couple thousand short is good enough for the NFL.

Fear not, Who Dey faithful. There is hope yet.

The Bengals are trying to pack PBS by lowering ticket prices. These bargain costs may lead to increased tickets sales, which would in turn lead to fewer local blackouts.

Plus, we have to put last year in context. The Bengals were coming off an abysmal 2010 season that saw the team go 4-12. Mike Brown vitriol was at an all-time high. The specter of Carson Palmer was hanging over the team. Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Jay Gruden were all unproven, and few, if any, Cincinnati fans expected the young team to perform as well as they did.

After last year's unanticipated playoff run, football fans around the Queen City are much more likely to pay the freight to see the team in person. The buzz surrounding the team, coupled with the new blackout rules, should equal more Bengals games on local television.

So, go ahead. Start decorating that man cave.

***Update***

After some extended research courtesy of Joe Reedy, the capacity numbers for a blackout only apply to seats not classified as premium or club seats. Thus, the Bengals, according to Reedy, would have had two blackouts lifted at most in 2011.

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