By Tim Graham
The Buffalo Bills have declined to participate in the NFL's new blackout system.
If you don't visit the Buffalo News home page and head straight to the Press Coverage blog or our online sports section, then you might've missed it. Bills CEO Russ Brandon told reporter Gene Warner the Bills have decided not to relax the threshold for ticket sales to make sure every game is shown on local television.
The NFL is allowing teams to sell as little as 85 percent of their non-premium seats and still be on TV within a 75-mile radius of the stadium.
"We are not going to participate in the relaxed-manifest rule," 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."
The Bills are only the third team to announce their intentions. The Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers previously said they are sticking with the old policy, which called for a local TV blackout to be lifted only after all non-premium tickets had been sold 72 hours before kickoff.
"I think this was an opportunity that the Bills have missed, to do something good for their extremely loyal fans," said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, "but also to position themselves for greater future economic success by making the product accessible to a larger segment of the population."
Brandon said only one of the Bills' past six blackouts would have reached the 85 percent threshold anyway, a sellout would have cost the Bills $90,000 per game in fees and the Bills were concerned fans wouldn't feel as compelled to buy season tickets.
"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."