Here's a trend we hope doesn't catch on: the Colts are intending on blacking out games locally if not sold out despite the NFL relaxing their mandatory black out rules. Pete Ward, the Colts Chief Operating Officer, had this to say regarding the teams decsion:
We’re a small-market team, and we need people in the stadium. While we value all of our fans, our first priority is to protect the investment of paying customers.
While this is certainly disappointing, it really doesn't shock the cynic in me. The NFL's new blackout rule allows each team to set their own blackout rules as long as it is satisfies the minimum of 85% of the stadium is full on Sundays. Since there are basically 32 different Scrooge McDuck's running NFL teams, it's really not surprising that they are going to tend to set their team's blackout rules at closer to 100% than the 85% minimum. Now that the Colts have seemed to set the precedent, I really expect many other teams to follow the Colts way on this issue.
It's really kind of strange to be harping on an attendance issue in the NFL when it seemingly has never been more popular. But the rise of fantasy football along with the exorbitant pricing at the stadium and the insane convenience of watching potentially every game at home in HD is tough to match. It sounds like the NFL is taking some steps to improve the gameday experience (more replays, wifi in the stadium), but it's still going to be an extremely tough ticket to sell especially to those fans of teams that are out of playoff contention.