All of Northeast Ohio's television viewers got to see (endure, be tortured by) the Cleveland Browns preseason opener on Saturday, a quickly-forgettable tilt with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, the local broadcast via Gannett NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and its regional network of stations.
This coming weekend, Browns fans may not be able to see their team play the Detroit Lions - unless they're sitting in Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Yes, there is still the possibility that the local NFL franchise could see its first local TV blackout since "the new Browns" started up in 1999, as an expansion team that took the name, colors and record history of the city's storied professional football franchise.
Since 1999, the "returned" Browns have often been awful. But no matter how awful they've been, even preseason games have sold out...allowing local TV rightsholders to show home games with no problem.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi has an update on the situation today:
Through Friday, they had less than 5,000 tickets left for the exhibition home opener on Saturday against Detroit. If they are not sold by Wednesday's 72-hour blackout deadline, the game will not be shown live.
And for that matter, Grossi notes that Browns TV voices Jim Donovan and Bernie Kosar may not need to show up at all if the game is not sold out:
It's also possible the game won't be televised on a delayed basis by WKYC Channel 3. The station is reviewing its options.
(Of course, if there ends up being no TV broadcast, Donovan would presumably slide over to his usual role as the Browns Radio Network's play-by-play voice. Clear Channel talk WTAM/1100 sports director Mike Snyder takes the radio reins when Donovan does TV work.)
The team blames the poor economy for the lack of preseason sales - not a difficult target when the economy really does stink nationwide, and certainly here in Northeast Ohio.
But for that matter, "stink" is an adequate description for the Browns. After a 17-0 embarrassment at the hands of the Packers on Saturday, who could blame someone for not shelling out his or her hard-earned-money to watch the Browns and Lions in person on Saturday?
The team is selling all tickets for 50% off, and has launched a heavily promoted $99 "Family Four Pack" promotion, aiming to fill those empty seats - including game tickets, food and the like. In the current situation, that price seems like it's about $99 too high.
The Browns local preseason TV network this season includes New Vision/Parkin ABC affiliate WYTV/33 Youngstown and Dispatch CBS affiliate WBNS/10 Columbus. If the games air in Toledo, Dayton or Lima, we couldn't find listings for them last night. It looks like former Toledo Browns preseason TV network affiliate - low-power MyNetwork TV affiliate WMNT-CA/48 "My 58" - has gone with the Detroit Lions' network this year.
If the Lions game isn't sold out by Wednesday, the other stations won't be showing the game live, either...or at all, apparently...