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Colts avoid local TV blackout

Meijer buys rest of tickets for military families

The Indianapolis Colts avoided a local TV blackout by selling out their game against the Kansas City Chiefs, while the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers are getting closer to meeting their deadlines.

Meijer Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based family owned retailer, agreed to buy the remaining 1,200 tickets to Saturday’s National Football League playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and distribute them to local military families, Colts owner Jim Irsay said on Twitter.

The Bengals’ local TV status has yet to be determined, though the team said Friday that a local division of the grocery store Kroger Co. had purchased a “large quantity of tickets,” also to be given to military families, “in an effort to assist in reaching a sellout.”

The Packers, who earned the right to host a home playoff game with a come-from-behind win on the last day of the regular season, said that as of 9:30 a.m. they had fewer than 1,000 unsold tickets.

The Packers are home against the San Francisco 49ers on Jan. 5, with seat prices at Ticketmaster.com listed at $102 to $313. There were about 3,000 tickets left Thursday.

The NFL Thursday gave the teams an extension to its rule that allows for a blackout in local TV markets if games aren’t sold out 72 hours before kickoff. The Philadelphia Eagles’ game Saturday against the New Orleans Saints was the lone first-round matchup sold out.

“We had a Week 17 in which 13 of 16 games had implications on teams making the playoffs,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said by phone Thursday. “Part of the excitement of the NFL is not knowing who’s going to the playoffs. It’s not as if teams knew weeks and months prior and had fans making plans.”

The NFL hasn’t had a postseason game blacked out since Jan. 10, 2002, when the Miami Dolphins hosted the Baltimore Ravens in the opening round. Two regular-season games weren’t shown locally in 2013.

The Bengals, who went 8-0 at home this season in winning the American Football Conference’s North Division title, said Thursday they had more than 7,000 tickets left for their Jan. 5 game against the San Diego Chargers.

The team later said it received an extension from the NFL based on strong ticket sales Thursday, including support from local businesses that helped provide tickets to military families. The Bengals didn’t say how many tickets remain.

The Colts had received an automatic 24-hour extension for ticket sales because of the New Year’s Day holiday. After getting a second extension from the NFL, the AFC South-champion Colts said Thursday they had fewer than 3,500 tickets available ranging in price from $56 to $155.

“We’re pleased to offer these!” Meijer said on Twitter about buying the remaining Colts tickets. “We understand how important it is to support the communities where our customers & team work and live.”

In Green Bay, the game-time temperature is forecast to be around 2 degrees, with a chance of it being as low as 13 degrees below zero.

Fox spokesman Lou D’Ermilio said the network, which is televising the game between the Packers and 49ers, wouldn’t comment on the possibility of a blackout. The Colts-Chiefs game airs on NBC and the Bengals-Chargers matchup is on CBS.

The NFL last month said it would strongly oppose a proposal by U.S. regulators to eliminate the blackout rule, which was created almost 40 years ago to promote attendance at games. The league said the rule is important in supporting NFL stadiums and the ability of teams to sell tickets.

Teams in danger of a local TV blackout have in the past bought unsold tickets or reached agreements with sponsors to buy them. The NFL said that teams would have to buy back playoff tickets at 100 percent of face value.

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