It was an unfortunate reality for Bucs fans the last two seasons: if you wanted to see the home team at Raymond James Stadium, you likely had to buy a ticket.
Thirteen of the last 16 home games were blacked out on television in the area. That may change after the NFL confirmed a Wall Street Journal report about new blackout rules.
Under a new rule, the home team would have the option of selling out at least 85 percent of their stadium to avoid a blackout. The previous rule was a full 100 percent sellout for games to go on local TV.
Fans say it's about time.
"It stinks that you can't watch your home team on TV if you can't make it to the games," said NFL fan Dennis McNulty.
But they aren't the only ones. Congressman Gus Bilirakis has been an opponent of the blackout rule for some time. In February, he and four other members of congress sent NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a letter requesting the NFL get rid of the blackout rule altogether.
"We wrote the letter, we put some pressure, my constituents really wanted this in the worst way and I'm thrilled that the NFL listened to his fans," Bilirakis said.
The NFL is also making changes for those fans who leave the comfort of their living room to go out to the stadium. They'll be adding wireless internet access so fans can bring tablets to check fantasy football teams, for example.
The league has also talked about adding a smartphone app that would allow fans to listen to players mic'd up on the field.
The NFL says it's all an attempt the to enhance the fan experience.
"We want to make sure that our fans, when they come into our stadiums, don't have to shut down, they can bring their devices," Goodell said.
During a press conference posted on NFL.com over the weekend, Goodell also said fans would be able to check out live action from other games while they are being played.
Fans say all the new features and new rules amount to a big victory for NFL fans everywhere.
"It actually entices people to come out more, you get more for your dollar," said NFL fan Todd Smith.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, the new blackout rules are up to each individual team as long as the benchmark is 85 percent or higher. That new rule will be rolled out this coming season.
As for the new technology, fans will have to wait just a bit longer.
Commissioner Goodell said one, possibly two teams will have those upgrades this season.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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