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NFL lifts blackout policy for one year

PHOENIX — The NFL has suspended its longstanding television blackout policy for at least the upcoming season, it announced Monday the NFL Annual Meetings.

The league policy mandated that local markets be blacked out when when home games weren’t sold out 72 hours before kickoff. League members — who voted to lift the policy Monday — will re-evaluate the blackout policy next offseason.

The blackout system was originally designed to spur home ticket sales, but in recent years granted teams extensions to sell out games — usually with ticket purchases by sponsors — before a final television decision was made. Last year, the NFL didn’t black out a single game.

It was one of two major broadcasting changes decided at the Arizona Biltmore on Monday. The league announced that the Bills-Jaguars Week 7 game, to be played in London, will be broadcast over an as-yet-unnamed digital site and not on the league’s Sunday Ticket. The two home markets — Jacksonville and Buffalo — will still get the game on their home televisions.

The move could be the first step toward a new digital strategy for the league.

Email: pfinley@suntimes.com
Twitter: @patrickfinley