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TV blackouts looming?

Posted Aug 5, 2009

Charger fans have become used to seeing all of the team's sold-out home games on TV. Now, because of the national economic crisis, this all may be about to change.

In the past, the Chargers’ success on the field – only three teams have won more games over the past five seasons – has led to strong ticket sales and the lifting of the local television blackout for the past 39 consecutive regular-season and postseason games.

However, the team's fans are now feeling the pinch of today’s tough economic times.

“Right now we still have both season tickets and single-game tickets available,” said Jim Steeg, the Chargers’ chief operating officer.  “We have a lot of tickets to sell for all of our games, and these are better seats than we’ve had available in recent years."

With seats still available for every game, there is now the chance that home games will be blacked out.  NFL policy states that games must be sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff for the games to be televised live in the local market.  The Chargers have not had a game blacked out since the 2006 preseason.

“Yes, local television blackouts are a definite possibility,” said Steeg.  “Our goal right now is to make everyone aware that tickets are still available and that, at this point at least, blackouts are likely. 

"It appears that both preseason home games (against Seattle and San Francisco) will be blacked out.  Hopefully the knowledge that most home games likely will not be shown locally will spur additional fans to join us at the stadium.  Our players want to play in a full stadium, and we want all of our fans to be able to watch all of our games on TV.”

Steeg added the Chargers are in the midst of one of their most aggressive sales efforts to date.

“The current economic climate has caused us to think outside the box and pull out all the stops,” said the veteran NFL executive.  “We didn’t raise prices this season to make sure our prices are near the NFL average.  In fact we lowered the price on a number of tickets when we increased the size of our family section.  We’ve made our payment terms more flexible.  We initiated our individual-game sale earlier than in the past in an effort to spark sales.  We have tried different approaches to reaching fans throughout Southern California other than traditional advertising.  We aggressively reached out to and renewed many former season ticket holders who had not renewed in the past couple of years.”

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