(Reuters) - The Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals all escaped NFL-mandated local TV blackouts for weekend playoff games by selling out their home stadiums.
Businesses stepped up to purchase remaining blocks of tickets in Green Bay, Wisconsin; Indianapolis and Cincinnati after the teams were given deadline extensions to sell out their games.
While sports playoff tickets can be among the hottest items for sale, in frigid Green Bay, the Packers were literally giving them away to avoid the possible local TV blackout of Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers.
More than 200 free tickets were made available by the team for distribution among military families, and 50 tickets were given to Green Bay Southwest High School for a special drawing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Friday.
They went quickly. A spokeswoman for the United Service Organizations (USO) told the newspaper the 200-plus tickets they were given were snapped up in 46 minutes.
Among many factors cited for the difficulty in selling out was the short notice for fans who did not find out until last Sunday what day, what time and what team their home favorites would be playing.
Green Bay and the Philadelphia Eagles, who did sell out their home playoff game against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday, needed victories last week just to make the playoffs.
Bitter cold in Green Bay, where the game time temperature is expected to hover around zero degrees Fahrenheit (-18 C), and the expense of tickets and a day at the stadium following the holidays have also been identified as factors.
Tickets that had been available on the NFL's ticket website began around $120 and ranged hundreds of dollars higher.
Both Indianapolis, who are hosting the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday, and Green Bay had said that 3,000 tickets were still available on Thursday.
The Bengals, who entertain the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, reportedly were some 7,000 seats shy of a sellout but businesses stepped in to purchase a "large quantity" of tickets to ensure the sellout, the Cincinnati Enquirer said on its website.
The National Football League, America's most popular professional sport, blacked out just two regular season games this season for failing to sell out.
The last NFL playoff game to be blacked out was in 2002 for a postseason contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the Dolphins in Miami.
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Gene Cherry)