Updated at 12:30 with Packers’ sellout and at 3:10 p.m. with Bengals’ sellout.
The NFL averted the embarrassment of local TV blackouts of playoff games this weekend in Green Bay, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, with the teams announcing Friday that all their remaining tickets had been purchased.
The Packers announced just after noon ET that fans and corporate sponsors had purchased the roughly 1,000 tickets that remained for the 4:40 p.m. ET game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, a game that is expected to be played in NFL-record cold temperatures. Associated Bank and Fox affiliates in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Wausau — which will broadcast the game — were among those purchasing the tickets, the Packers said.
A grocery chain in Indianapolis purchased the Colts’ remaining 1,200 tickets, ensuring that the 4:35 p.m. game Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs is a sellout. Owner Jim Irsay hinted at the news Friday morning in his typically restrained way on Twitter, his favorite mode of communication:
WHAT'S all this jibber jabber about a blackout??????
— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) January 3, 2014
Meijer, a Grand Rapids, Mich., retailer that is a corporate sponsor of the Colts, purchased the remaining tickets and plans to donate them to military families, the Colts announced.
The Bengals announced that Kroger and Procter and Gamble had purchased the remaining tickets for the 1:05 p.m. game Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Tickets for the fourth game of the weekend, New Orleans at Philadelphia at 8:10 p.m. Saturday, sold out in mere minutes Tuesday, the Eagles said.
The very idea of a playoff blackout, which hasn’t occurred in 12 years, was an embarrassing one for the NFL. It could consider lowering ticket prices for playoff games (the league sets them and teams cannot sell postseason tickets at 34 cents on the dollar) or agree to lift blackouts when, say, 95 percent of tickets are sold. After all, not everyone can attend, although everyone pays taxes that subsidize stadium building projects. And the problem is only going to become more urgent for the league, with high-def and better WiFi at home.
“Sports have got to be the only business where the consumer gets blamed for poor sales,” Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star writes. “Any other business, we’d look at the numbers and say, ‘Well, their price point is too high,” or ‘The service stinks,’ or ‘They don’t carry a good selection of inventory.’ And it’s ridiculous. NFL fans are the most loyal fans we have in this country. If they’re not purchasing playoff tickets, that tells me it’s an NFL problem, not an Indy/Cincy/Green Bay problem.”