By Tim Graham
You have to assume the Buffalo Bills are conducting far more definitive market research than what was done here on the Press Coverage blog over the weekend.
The Bills don't need to look at our rinky-dink polls, but they might be pleasantly surprised to see how readers responded to questions about the NFL's new optional blackout policy.
Readers cast about 2,000 votes by this morning and, much to my surprise, didn't make much of a demand for the Bills to adopt the new policy, which would allow teams to locally televise a game with as little as 85 percent of the non-premium tickets sold. The rule that had been in place for decades was that 100 percent must be sold.
The tradeoff, however, would be a financial hit. Clubs that adopt the new system reportedly must pay into a league-wide revenue pool for the privilege. There's also concern it could lead to reduced season-ticket sales because fans might not feel compelled to step up if there's a greater likelihood the games will be on TV.
Any loss in revenues -- from NFL-imposed fees or a box-office drop-off -- would either be eaten by the Bills or passed along through higher ticket prices.
So what are the Bills to do?
The first question asked readers if they would prefer the old policy with no price change or the new policy with an increase. There was no overwhelming demand. The old policy was winning by 3 percent as of this posting.
The second question asked "How reasonable is it to expect the Bills to forfeit revenue by adopting the NFL's new blackout policy?" The options were: Highly reasonable (they owe it to the fans); somewhat reasonable (a welcome gesture, but not necessary); somewhat unreasonable (they shouldn't, but the PR might help); highly unreasonable (they must protect the box office).
Only 20 percent of the response said the Bills owed it to their fans to adopt the new policy, the most interesting result to me. A combined 47 percent of the vote took the heat off the Bills by saying it was somewhat unreasonable (32 percent) or highly unreasonable (15 percent) to expect them to lose money under the new blackout system.
The most emphatic statement came on the third question. I asked readers how likely they would be to buy tickets -- compared to the old 100 percent policy -- if a game wouldn't sell out, but there was a chance it could hit the 85 percent threshold and still be on TV.
More than two-thirds said they would be "just as likely" to buy tickets either way, with only 26 percent saying they would be "less likely" to buy tickets.
Results mentioned are a snapshot of when this article was posted. The polls remain open, and the numbers could fluctuate.
But it certainly doesn't look like fans who visit this blog would revolt if the Bills remained with the status quo.
(Photo: John Hickey/Buffalo News)