Detroit gets reprieve from football blackout

Lions fans will be able to watch the home opener on TV after all, thanks to the team's first sellout since last November.

By Christopher Tkaczyk, reporter

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- It was beginning to look like another dark season for Lions fans as the home-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday was threatened to be blacked out on local TV, thanks to the NFL's policy to forbid the airing of games that haven't sold enough tickets. But on Friday, fans got the good news that they'll be able to watch No. 1 draft choice Matthew Stafford on TV after all.

Last season, the NFL blacked out a total of 9 games. Five of those were Lions games in a season they finished 0-16.

As of Thursday's 1 p.m. deadline, the team was still 1,700 tickets shy of a sellout, so the league gave the Lions a 24-hour extension, during which the game sold out. The team hasn't disclosed whether the 1,700 tickets were sold to retail customers or in any kind of large block.

The theory behind the NFL's TV blackout policy is that more fans will trek to the stadium -- and more tickets will be sold -- if a game is not shown on TV. This year, the economic slump threatens much more widespread blackouts. The San Diego Chargers were also able to prevent a last minute blackout for Sunday, but the Jacksonville Jaguars were not as lucky and will not be seen on TV.

This year in Detroit, ticket sales to sporting events have matched the Motor's City depressed state. For the first time in years, Pistons games haven't sold out, and for the past two years fans could buy Red Wings tickets to the Stanley Cup finals on the day of the game.

Sunday's game is the team's first sellout since last November's Thanksgiving Day match against Tennessee. The Lions have had an epic losing spell since Dec. 23, 2007, when the team lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 20-25. To top of page

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