Bengals Join Packers, Colts in Avoiding NFL Local TV Blackouts

The National Football League’s four wild-card playoff games will be televised in their host team’s local market after corporate support helped ensure sellouts.

The Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals sold all of their remaining tickets yesterday with help from corporate sponsors. Each team received a deadline extension to avoid a blackout that would have been mandated by NFL rules.

The Packers, who earned the right to host a home playoff game with a come-from-behind win on the last day of the regular season, will have a sellout for its Lambeau Field game against the San Francisco 49ers tomorrow after fans and a group of corporate partners, led by Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp and including local Fox TV affiliates who will show the game, bought the remaining tickets.

“A unique season and other factors contributed to having tickets available, but with the support of our fans and partners, we’re looking forward to a great atmosphere,” Packers President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Murphy said in a statement.

Meijer Inc., a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based family-owned retailer, agreed to buy the remaining 1,200 tickets to today’s National Football League playoff game between the Colts and Kansas City Chiefs at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and distribute them to local military families, Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Twitter.

Military Benefit

After Kroger Co. purchased a “large quantity of tickets,” also to be given to military families, “in an effort to assist in reaching a sellout” for the Bengals’ game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, the team completed the task yesterday with support from Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co.’s Tide, Gillette, CoverGirl and Bounty brands. Those tickets also will be given to military families, the Bengals said in a news release.

The NFL two days ago gave the teams an extension to its rule that allows for a blackout in local television markets if games aren’t sold out 72 hours before kickoff. The Philadelphia Eagles’ game today against the New Orleans Saints was the lone first-round matchup sold out.

“We had a Week 17 in which 13 of 16 games had implications on teams making the playoffs,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said by phone two days ago. “Part of the excitement of the NFL is not knowing who’s going to the playoffs. It’s not as if teams knew weeks and months prior and had fans making plans.”

Last Blackout

The NFL hasn’t had a postseason game blacked out since Jan. 10, 2002, when the Miami Dolphins hosted the Baltimore Ravens in the opening round. Two regular-season games weren’t shown locally in 2013.

The Bengals, who went 8-0 at home this season in winning the American Football Conference’s North Division title, said two days ago they had more than 7,000 tickets left.

The Colts had received an automatic 24-hour extension for ticket sales because of the New Year’s Day holiday. After getting a second extension from the NFL, the AFC South-champion Colts said two days ago they had fewer than 3,500 tickets available ranging in price from $56 to $155.

“We’re pleased to offer these,” Meijer said on Twitter about buying the remaining Colts tickets. “We understand how important it is to support the communities where our customers and team work and live.”

In Green Bay, the gametime temperature is forecast to be around 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celsius), with a chance of it being as low as -13 Fahrenheit. In a statement yesterday afternoon, the team said Fox affiliates WITI in Milwaukee, WLUK in Green Bay and WFXS in Wausau were among the purchasers of tickets.

The NFL last month said it would strongly oppose a proposal by U.S. regulators to eliminate the blackout rule, which was created almost 40 years ago to promote attendance at games. The league said the rule is important in supporting NFL stadiums and the ability of teams to sell tickets.

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