Tampa Bay are one of only a few teams with blackout issues in recent years. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
Since its inception the National Football League has been about inclusion of its fans, not exclusion. It's still the only professional sport in America where you're guaranteed to see a full season's slate of game, plus the playoffs, and Superbowl without having to purchase a cable TV package.
This is one of the primary reasons the NFL continues to grow-- accessibility. The last bastion of exclusion game in the form of media blackouts, something that prevented local fans from being able to watch their local team without the game being sold out at the stadium. Economically I understand the reasons why, but given the economic situation over the last four years it was high time the NFL re-visited the blackout rules with an understanding of how many can't afford tickets due to a change in circumstances.
Now team's are allowed to set their own blackout threshold, down to anything as low as 85% capacity. The kicker is that any ticket sales above the figure they set hits the league's revenue sharing kitty; this dissuades teams from setting a low goal.
Only Oakland, Jacksonville, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, and San Diego have had issues with blackouts the last few years. With the Jaguars and Chargers electing to tarp over entire parts of their stadium to artificially remove seating to avoid a blackout. There are no signs this will affect the Panthers, especially with Cam Newton, but it's a welcome sight to see the NFL adjusting due to the economic climate; even if it's two years too late.