Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Franchise Movement Causing NFL Problems

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Franchise Movement Causing NFL Problems

Article excerpt

The National Football League may be starting to pay the price for letting its franchises skip from city to city.

After three franchises changed cities in the past two years, the league doesn't have a team in the United States second-biggest market, and sagging attendance is forcing local television blackouts of home games in the fourth- and fifth-largest markets.

In addition to causing problems for local television affiliates in the blacked-out markets, the league could be stunting its future growth. "The old adage that market size counts may not be the foolproof formula it once was, but it still has some validity," said David Klatell, director of the broadcast division of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, who has followed sports television for years. The NFL is without a team in Los Angeles for a second straight year. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Oakland Raiders failed for a second straight week to sell out their stadium, forcing the league to pull the game from local television. "We're staring at the possibility of losing all five home games," said Mark Murray, vice president of business affairs at San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON-TV. "This isn't looking real great right now." In Houston, the situation is worse. The Oilers said they will move to Nashville, Tenn., next season, triggering a boycott by their fans. In two home games so far this season, Houston averaged just 23,901 fans, leaving more empty seats than filled ones in the cavernous Astrodome. The NFL ordered a change to the way the Oilers split gate revenue - visiting teams get a 40 percent cut of average attendance during the past three seasons rather than 40 percent of this year's gate. TV Ratings Down: Advertising executives said while television ratings were down 5 to 9 percent for the weekend games so far this year, the loss of the local markets in the San Francisco Bay area and Houston haven't really had an impact on advertising revenue because much of the advertising is sold before the season begins. …

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