In a move that is a bit of a disappointment but not exactly a surprise, Bills CEO Russ Brandon has confirmed to The Buffalo News that the team will not participate in the NFL new local TV blackout policy. As a result, Bills games will continue to need to be sold out 72 hours before kickoff in order to avoid blackouts.
“We are not going to participate in the relaxed-manifest rule,” chief executive officer Russ Brandon said. “We are a volume-based business, and for us to be successful, we need to keep our ticket prices low and sell a greater number of tickets.”
A little while ago, we told you about the NFL’s new TV blackout policy. Under the policy, a franchise could opt to lower the mandatory level of tickets sold required for a home game to be televised on local television. Traditionally, the NFL has required games to be sold out to avoid local blackouts, but now teams can opt for a level as low as 85% of tickets sold.
The rub with this policy is that any team that opted in would automatically have to pay a higher share of gate receipts into a leaguewide revenue pool. Brandon estimated that it would cost the team $500,000 a year to participate. And while that may seem like peanuts to an NFL team, there’s also the potential loss of revenue from fans deciding not to come to the stadium as a result of the new policy, hoping to see the game on TV.
“As a small-market franchise, we need people in the building,” Brandon said. “That drives all of our additional business platforms. We need people in the building as much in December as we do in September.”
As a fan, I absolute despise the NFL blackout policy. And make no mistake, the Bills’ blackout radius is WAY too big (as I’ve mentioned, the fact that Syracuse – 155 miles from Orchard Park – is in the blackout zone is ridiculous). But as a business, I think the Bills had no choice here. The team needs people in the stadium. Can you imagine if there was no blackout policy at all? What would Buffalo’s attendance be for December games? 30,000? Lower? That just looks bad.
The Bills aren’t the first team to reject this new policy – the Colts and Chargers have also announced they will keep “sold out” as their threshold to avoid blackouts. As this rate, it might be a surprise if any teams opt in.