Buffalo News calls on Bills to “implement” new blackout rule


And it starts.

With the NFL relaxing the blackout rule to permit teams to televise home games locally if only 85 percent of the non-premium seats are sold, fans — and the media that often speaks on their behalf — will expect teams to do whatever it takes to get the blackouts lifted.

The details won’t matter.  So what if the home team has to pick its percentage before the season begins?  Who cares if the home team loses 16 cents on the dollar for every ticket sold above the selected minimum?  And why fret if the home team guesses wrong the other way, leaving seats still unsold for one or more games and forcing the teams to buy them at 34 cents on the dollar?

The fans will now expect that the teams will do whatever they have to do to get the games on television.

In western New York, the process of applying pressure has commenced, with an editorial in the Buffalo News explaining that the Bills organization “owes it to supporters to do everything it reasonably can to implement this new program.”

The News argues in part that the taxpayers who funded the stadium — and who partially will finance the renovations — deserve the ability to watch the games at home.

Whether the NFL intended this outcome or not, look for more and more media in towns with teams that struggle to fill their stadiums to call upon the local football franchises to ensure that the new floor for ticket sales translates into televised contests.

12 responses to “Buffalo News calls on Bills to “implement” new blackout rule

  1. Maybe I’m missing something in this story but the point of only needing to have 85% capacity to avoid a blackout kind of means its easier for games to get on TV, not harder.
    This was done so the owners would not have to pony up to the bar anymore since 85% is pretty doable in most places.

  2. It should be as simple as this:
    If NFL teams use any taxpayer money to build/renovate their stadium, they lose the right to black out the home games. If the team wants to privately fund their stadium, let them do whatever they want.

  3. I think there is a potential simple solution here–though the analysis could get complex.

    Since the Bills are in negotiations with the County for increased funding, condition public funding based on accepting the 85% blackout rule. Seems perfectly reasonable. But then that means Erie County has to actually step up to the plate, and understand the costs to the team and the community.

    Gene Warner, in an article at Buffalo News, did a rough calculation that it could cost the team about $90k per game–but his calculation fails to consider concession sales, parking, etc. So that’s a potential gross understatement cause those additional lost sales are probably even more significant (since the $90k included “shared losses”, if I’m not mistaken, while the losses in concessions and parking may be totally absorbed by the home team depending on the revenue sharing rules). I would argue total losses could be $250k or more per game, for the home team. Let’s assume the new policy results in 50% of the games not being sold out (the economic incentives change–thus we should expect fewer 100% capacity games). That could be as much as $1M per season–and frankly, that may be an understatement due to a lot of ancillary factors I’m probably not even considering. But this is the type of analysis that needs to be done! This simplistic view that this is a “good thing” for Buffalo (and other small markets) is just downright naive.

    I don’t know the teams operating profit, but that lost revenue likely goes straight to the bottom line. Strange as it may sound–even though $1M may not seem like much for an NFL team, it’s possible it takes a huge chunk out of the team’s annual operating profits–especially for a team with tighter margins to begin with. I’m a financial consultant to a number of large companies. And a change like that (however small it may seem) can change the entire financial model one designs its business plan around.

    Mark my words. This change will impact the negotiations. And what looks like a “good thing” now to Erie County’s resident’s, won’t look so good when the team asks for more concessions and all of a sudden a lease that looked like a fait accompli, doesn’t happen. Bye bye Buffalo!

    Unintended consequences of poorly thought out policy. Or maybe this is the desired consequence. I wouldn’t put it past the NFL to create a policy to get teams out of small markets. Los Angeles Bills!

  4. @ pitch87mph

    The parking is operated by ProPark not the Bills.

    Besides, the real money is in the TV rights. Even if the stadiums were empty and the croud was digitally imposed, the NFL would still make a fortune off of the TV deals alone. I think the teams should now charge more for those TV rights in exchange for a guarantee that a blackout will be avoided at the teams expense.

  5. The league has come to a compromise. They will lift the blackouts, but those watching at home will have to pay the club rental on their living room “suite” (according to it’s level of “luxury”), as well as a parking fee for their car on the street (more for “private and secure” parking their garage) as well as the beer and hot dogs they consume while stretched out on Easy Boy.

  6. The Blackout Rule is tantamount to throwing a tantrum. The NFL’s mantra is:

    “You fans are unable to buy enough overpriced tickets? Fine, NONE of you can watch the game then!!!!”

    No other business in the world denies their customers service just because not enough product is bought.

  7. They won’t have to worry about the first two games. The KC and NE games have been sold out since about 1 and a half days since the individual tickets went on sale for season ticket holders. If the Bills are 3-3 or better by the time they play their 3rd home game against Tennessee, that game will be sold out as well.

    I’m a season ticket holder stationed at Little Rock AFB. I don’t have to worry about the Blackout rule. Not to mention, I’ll be at the KC, Miami Thursday nighter, and the week 17 game against the Jets. However, my family members have to worry about it, and I think it’s unfair that they have to pay taxes to fund a stadium for a team that they might not have the right to watch should it not reach 85%, which is BS.

  8. I think the Bills would probably be ok at 95%.
    Just for the record, back in the days before the dreaded blackout rule went into effect in’73, all home games,even soldout ones, were not televised locally. The 72 hour blackout rule was in fact a huge step forward for NFL fans.

  9. My feeling on this is that the Bills will end up somewhere in the 90 to 95% range. It is unfortunate that they get to pick the percentage that they want. I guess we will just wait and see what they do. Either way i’m guessing we will not see all the home games unless they are on a pace to make the playoffs. Especially the games later in the year when all that white stuff starts flying.

  10. For what its worth, Russ Brandon said in an interview on WGR 55 that by the time individual game tickets go on sale to the public on July 9 that the first 4 home games will be sold out.

    The Toronto game will be sold out and televised as usual (yes, it will be very “Miami-Esque” with many tickets being bought up by Rogers Communications, thought far less of that occured last year)… that leaves 3 games to be concerned about… unfortunately they are all against garbage teams (Jax, St. Louis, Jets) and in freezing December. The NY Jets game will most likely sell out soon… that leaves two possible black-out games… we’ll see what happens.

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