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Some More Perspective on 85 Percent Rule

Emotionally, I’m all for the Buffalo Bills to accept the new optional 85 Percent Blackout Rule so all their regular season home games may be televised.

But taking emotion out of it, I feel it is my duty to give all the discussion on talk radio and in newspapers in favor of it a little more balance, logic and perspective.

You may have read recently in The Buffalo News that the NFL team filed suit against its former radio rights holder. Cumulus, to get at least $1 million in incentive rights fees it feels it is owed under its contract.

We’re talking about $1 million, a pittance compared to what the New York Giants, the New York Jets, the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions and other big market teams get in similar radio deals.

The Bills also have one of the lowest ticket prices in the league, which means their gate revenue is much lower than the revenue of big market teams that fill much smaller stadiums.

They get a comparative small amount of money for TV rights to preseason games.

The money they get for high value premium seats (as well as non-premium seats) doesn’t approach the revenue big market teams get.

The point is that while they share billions in national TV revenue with the NFL’s other 31 teams, the Bills are at a huge competitive disadvantage financially in just about every other way.

And the 85 Percent Rule — which appeases Congress and the FCC and puts small market teams on the spot — could be just another burden for them.

If I were the Bills, I wouldn’t announce what I plan to do until it becomes an issue during the season when it wouldn’t potentially hurt season ticket sales as much. Even then, I’d do it on a game-by-game basis if that is possible.
 
While I understand why politicians, editorial boards, radio talk show hosts and columnists are all for the Bills to give in and accept the rule, the team has legitimate business concerns and should do a much better job explaining them.

Yes, the Bills should feel fortunate that fans still support the team despite missing the playoffs for 12 straight seasons.

Noureen DeWulf at the 79th Annual Academy Awar...

Noureen DeWulf: "Anger" Co-star

But the Western New York community should feel fortunate that despite all the competitive disadvantages that Owner Ralph Wilson is operating under that there is a NFL team here instead of some larger community that most likely would be more lucrative.

And spare me the talk that the Bills home games should be on TV and available to all WNYers who pay taxes to upgrade the stadium. A lot of businesses get taxpayer breaks. The Bills only get them because politicians believe they need to give them to keep the team.

One of the prices the community may have to pay to keep the Bills here long term is to sell-out the stadium as often as possible. And the 85 Percent Rule may force the team to raise ticket prices to a level that will hurt the team in that mission.

If the Bills agree to the rule and season ticket sales plummet to the point that the owner may feel he has to move to compete in order to sign the future Mario Williams’ of the world, then all those shouting for its acceptance will have no one but themselves to blame.

WBBZ-TV, the local independent station, has quietly dropped a few low performing shows in favor of paid programming. “Daniel Boone” reruns have been replaced from Monday through Friday at 9 a.m. in favor of paid programming. “Hogan’s Heroes” reruns have been replaced on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

Speaking of WBBZ, “Off-Beat Cinema,” the late-night hosted movie program that features good and campy sci-fi classics (among other things) and was carried by Channel 7 for 18 years, moves to the classic station at midnight on Aug. 4.

The FX press guide for Charlie Sheen’s new painful comedy “Anger Management” notes this interesting tidbit about Noureen Dewulf, the actress playing the woman in Charlie’s therapy group who shot her boyfriend after he cheated on her: “She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, US Olympic and NHL hockey goalie, Ryan Miller.” I hope the fact that there is no mention that Miller plays for the Buffalo Sabres doesn’t send any fans into therapy.

pergament@msn.com

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2 responses to "Some More Perspective on 85 Percent Rule"

  1. Chris says:

    In addition to what you note above RE: Bills ticket prices being lower than most other teams, I cannot help but think that Buffalo, as a city, also has a lower cost of everything than other cities with football teams. Raising ticket prices in Buffalo may mean they feel relatively more expensive than tickets in other markets do to their fans. It’s tough.

    • “Buffalo, as a city, also has a lower cost of everything than other cities with football teams.”

      With one important exception: taxes.

      Personally, I think putting the blackout rule on the table for negotiations is fair game. After all, the county owns the stadium, and they should be allowed to set the conditions of the lease. If the Bills don’t like that, well, maybe they should’ve made the playoffs once or twice since the millennium and there’d be a little more good will.

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