Friday, July 20, 2012

Buffalo Bills Keeping Fans in the Dark

A couple weeks ago the NFL changed their blackout policy. Previously the NFL would blackout games that did not sell 100% of their non-premium seats. The new policy says that the game only needs to sell 85% of their non-premium seats to avoid a blackout. Individual teams were able to work around the old 100% rule by creative means. For example the Jacksonville Jaguars would use a tarp to cover seats. The seats that were covered did not count as seats to be sold, so they were able to televise some games.
The Jags tarp....
Last season only four teams averaged less than 85% attendance (remember the rule was still 100%) they were the Bill, Redskins, Dolphins and Bengals. The Bills and the Bengals did suffer blackouts. The Dolphins were able to avoid blackouts by partnering with their local TV affiliate to buy enough seats so the games could air. The Redskins... well there is no legitimate reason why they were not blacked out (must be those Washington politics).

Bills Fans TV's
Part of the new policy is that teams can choose to keep the old 100% rule if they choose or they can set their own percentage as long as it is greater that 85%. Reasons why teams would choose to not take advantage of the new rule include less potential ticket revenue. If teams choose to take advantage of the new rule, they would be forced to share more of the ticket revenue. So this new rule is good for fans of teams who have been getting blacked out, right? For fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it is. The Bucs have embraced the new rule change and are now confident that all of their games will air this year. Some teams chose not to take advantage of the new rule. These teams include the San Diego Chargers, the Indianapolis Colts, and the Buffalo Bills among others. I am going to further look into the Bills.

The Buffalo Bills have been blacked out six times in the last two years. Buffalo fans petitioned for rule change from the NFL so they could watch their beloved Bill play on Sunday afternoons. The rules changed, and what should be a happy time in Buffalo is anything but because of the front office's refusal to accept the rule. Teams will continue this trend of not lowering their attendance percentage needed to avoid a blackout because they do not want the value of their ticket to decrease. By taking this standpoint teams are alienating fans.

Often it is said that Bills fans are some of the most passionate fans in the league (they have to be to continue watching them). So some may wonder why they cant sell enough tickets to avoid blackouts, especially because they have the lowest average non-premium ticket price ($60) in the league. The answer is the fact that they are the second smallest television market in the league yet they have the seventh largest stadium (about 74,000). Thats hard to sellout!

Final Thought
I know why the Bills organization does not want to lower their threshold for tickets. The Bills think they will lose money if they lowered to 85%. This is probably true, yet I still think they are making a mistake. Im not just saying they are making a mistake because they are alienating their fans who have been loyal to the organization but I think they are making a mistake because those same fans can turn on them. Now that the fans are aware that the Bills had the opportunity to increase the chance that the team will be on TV and that they declined, the fans will be furious. And they should be.


Statistics from,,


  1. Great article and very interesting the decision these teams are faced with. In my opinion, the Bills should be the traveling ambassador of the NFL. With the craze of NFL in London and Canada over the years, the Bills should play 4 games on neutral international sites and 4 in Buffalo. Tickets would be more of a demand for those 4 games and the other 4 would never get blacked out. One brothers thought to another...

    1. Thats a good idea. They are close to Canada lol. At least the fans would be able to watch them play. It is crazy though that they complained about game being blacked out and they had an opportunity to change... and they didnt. Thanks for the reply.

  2. Great stuff Drew! Such a tough decision for teams. Anything involving ticket sales is always a tricky business.