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Bills officially decline relaxed blackout policy

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."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |