The Buffalo Bills got approval from the NFL today to strike a deal to extend their series of games in Toronto.
A contract between the Bills and Rogers Communications still must be finalized, but it's expected the Bills will agree to make a regular-season appearance in Toronto for five more years, through 2017. Both the Bills and Rogers Communications have repeatedly said over the past year they would like an extension of their current five-year deal, which runs out at the end of this season.
"The International Committee’s decision to approve the continuation of our games in Toronto is a crucial step in our ongoing efforts to regionalize our franchise," said Bills Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon in a statement. "As we have stated on many occasions, the regionalization process remains vital to keeping our franchise strong in Western New York. We are continuing our discussions with Rogers Communications on a new deal and remain optimistic that we can come to an agreement in the near future.”
The decision came in a vote of the NFL’s International Committee during the league’s three-day spring owners meetings in Atlanta.
Mary Owen, Bills executive vice president of strategic planning, is the Bills' point person in striking the extension. She is on the nine-member NFL International Committee. She serves on the panel along with team owners Clark Hunt (Kansas City), Jeffrey Lurie (Philadelphia), Rita LeBlanc (New Orleans), George McCaskey (Chicago) and John York (San Francisco), plus Tampa Bay co-chairman Joel Glazer, Pittsburgh president Art Rooney, and San Diego president Dean Spanos.
This season’s game in the Rogers Centre pits the Bills against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 16.
Rogers agreed to pay a $78 million fee for the first five years of the series, which averaged out to roughly twice what the Bills gross from a sold-out game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills have grown their Canadian fan base since the start of the series. Southern Ontario has crept past Rochester in the Bills’ regionalization effort, accounting for a bit more than 15 percent of the fans at games in Orchard Park.