ESPN and Fox affiliate WJW-TV Cleveland have chipped in to help guarantee a sell-out for the 1-7 Cleveland Browns's Monday Night Football game against the Baltimore Ravens, according to the team.
ESPN, which will air the game nationally, and WJW-TV, which has the local rights, teamed with the Browns and football advertiser Bud Light to purchase the remaining tickets and insure the game would not be blacked out on local TV screens, per NFL policy if a game is not sold out. The tickets will be donated to the USO and other organizations.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at the start of the season the league had no plans to lift the TV blackout of home games not sold out 72 hours before game time, even given the economic hit that has reduced the discretionary spending power of some fans.
The league does have a policy of giving more time to teams showing "significant progress" toward selling out.
Goodell has estimated that no more than 20% of the games could be blacked out this season, which is more than five times the 4% blackouts of last season. The average for the decade before last year had been 8%. But even the 20% is better than the previous two decades.
The TV blackout does not apply to club seats and suites, but instead to the general admission seats whose sales could be depressed by the games availability on TV.