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One blackout down, one more to go


The Jaguars will maintain their history for never having blacked out their local TV market for a regular season home game. The team announced late yesterday that Sunday's game against the visiting Cleveland Browns will be telecast in Jacksonville, despite the fact that about 1,700 tickets remained unsold as of yesterday's 4:15 p.m. blackout deadline.

CBS and Jacksonville CBS affiliate WJXT Channel 4 guaranteed the sellout by agreeing to purchase unsold tickets. WJXT has the local rights to televise the game to a Jacksonville market that has consistently posted high ratings for Jaguars games.

Similar sellout guarantees have occurred two other times (Baltimore, Oct. 5, 2000, and Tennessee, Sept. 23, 1999) in Jaguars history. A Jaguars preseason game against Kansas City in 1999 was blacked out locally. It was the first and remains the only blackout.

Projections are that an unsold seats purchase will have to occur one more time this year, if the Jaguars are to keep their regular season no blackout string going. Next week will see the Jaguars play host to the Arizona Cardinals, a game that is likely to have at least 2,000 tickets remaining at deadline time next Thursday, Dec. 7.

"We're even more concerned," Prescott said of the game against the Cardinals. "We have much further to go," he added of ticket sales, which are lagging about a thousand tickets behind the Browns game.

However, that game will be shown on FOX, not CBS, which means the Jacksonville rights fall to WAWS, Channel 30. That station has not participated in a guaranteed sellout previously.

Seven local businesses, including WJXT, came to the rescue in Sept. of '99. They purchased unsold tickets, allowing the Jaguars' game against Tennessee to be shown to the Jacksonville market.

Earlier this season, ESPN agreed to purchase enough tickets to permit local telecast of the Jaguars' game against the Baltimore Ravens.

"It's not the way we wanted to do it, but we're glad CBS and WJXT stepped up to guarantee the sellout. We'll be able to see that our fans everywhere see the game," Jaguars Chief Financial Officer Bill Prescott said of this Sunday's game against the Browns, which begins at 4:15 p.m.

If 2,000 tickets are unsold and the average cost is $40 per ticket, a local business or TV station would have to pay $80,000 for Jacksonville not to be blacked out.

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