A blackout occurs in football when a game cannot be televised in a specific media market. Unpopular with fans, a blackout is designed to either encourage ticket sales or force the audience to view other programming.
According to NFL rules, a broadcaster who has a signal within a 75-mile radius of an NFL stadium may only show the game if the team is on the road or if the home game sells out more than 72 hours before the start of the contest. When an NFL game is not shown in a local market due to lack of a sellout, that game is considered "blacked out".
The team, however, can request a time extension if the game is close to being sold out after the 72-hour limit passes. The broadcaster with rights to the game may also buy out the remaining tickets in order to show the game, often donating them to charity.
Fans who follow a winning team will likely get to see every game, while teams suffering through losing seasons and poor attendance may only be available on television while on the road. Many teams, however, have a very loyal fan base, and these games sell out regardless of the team�s record.
Blackouts in the NFL can greatly hurt teams which are already struggling financially. The Los Angeles Rams, for example, were unable to sell-out games during their final years in the city, and this only further eroded fan support and team revenue.
In the Canadian Football League, all games broadcast on TSN are subject to local blackouts. Edmonton Eskimos games, for example, are blacked out in the Edmonton area to encourage fans to buy tickets.
In the case of sold-out CFL games, the home team does have the option of voluntarily lifting the blackout. They are not required to do so, however.