By Tim Graham
As the Buffalo Bills continue to evaluate how they'll apply the NFL's new blackout policy, another small-market club already has declared it will stick with the old policy.
Indianapolis Star writer Mark Alesia reports the Indianapolis Colts will lift local television blackouts only if they sell out the game. For the first time in 40 years, the NFL is giving teams the option to air games when they sell as few as 85 percent of their non-premium tickets.
"We're a small-market team, and we need people in the stadium," chief operating officer Pete Ward is quoted in the story. "While we value all of our fans, our first priority is to protect the investment of paying customers."
That's a logical and totally justified statement, and it doesn't even address another deterrent to adopting the 85 percent policy. Doing so could cost teams money. Clubs that lower the threshold reportedly must pay into a league-wide revenue pool for the privilege. The Buffalo News has reported it could cost the Bills hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Ward also told the Indianapolis Star the Colts believe most teams will decline to adopt the 85 percent option.
Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz tweeted tonight: "Colts tell me if you accept 85% rule, every tix sold over 85% capacity, half that money must be paid to visiting team. Serious $$ loss. ... NFL has given teams the option to do 85%, but I'd be surprised if many, if any, actually do that. Very expensive."
Aishah Hasnie of Indianapolis' Fox TV affiliate broke the story earlier today and had this quote from Colts vice president of ticket operations Larry Hall:
"We understand what the NFL is doing, and at the same time, as a small market team, we want to make sure that we protect that game-day experience. Every year we'll evaluate where we're at, but at this point in time after thinking through it, home-field advantage is a big part of it. It's a competitive advantage on the field to have the stadium full."
The Colts are the first team to declare its plan. How their fans react will be educational for other small-market teams to follow.