Since renewal, Bills making ‘basically the same’ money off Toronto games as regular home games

Finances likely won’t be a factor as the Buffalo Bills mull the long-term future of the Bills-in-Toronto series.

Sun Media has confirmed that the Toronto games stopped being a windfall for the NFL team when the five-year series extension was signed a year ago.

The Bills made a killing off the first Bills-in-Toronto contract.

RogersRogers Media Inc. paid the NFL team $78 million in 2008 for the right over five years to stage one regular-season game per year and three preseason games at the Rogers Centre.

Rogers subsequently paid the Bills to take back the third preseason game in 2012, a source said, meaning Rogers paid more than $78 million for seven games.

The Bills thus drove back to Orchard Park with an average of more than $11 million from each papered or poorly attended Rogers Centre game.

But a source in the position to know has informed Sun Media that, under terms of the five-year extension, Rogers is paying the Bills “about half” of the total amount of the first deal, for five regular-season games and one yet-to-be-scheduled preseason game.

That’s an average of about $6.5 million per game — a plummet of about $5 million and, most significantly, “basically the same” amount the Bills net from each home date at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the source said.

Ever since the Bills and Rogers announced the five-year extension in January 2013, both parties have kept financial details secret.

A source had told me in May 2012, when most terms for a series renewal had been agreed to, that Rogers would pay the Bills “significantly” less.

Why did the Bills agree to continue the series, then? For two reasons, the source said.

First, because the primary reason that Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon has continually cited is legitimate: that the games have successfully extended the Bills’ brand into Southern Ontario.

As Brandon told me in a telephone interview on Wednesday, the team now draws about double the number of fans from Southern Ontario to every Bills home game, compared to before 2008 — in all now, about 18% of ticket sales.

The second reason is that by relocating one regular-season home game per year, the Bills have to worry about filling Ralph Wilson Stadium only seven times, not eight.

In his interview on Wednesday, Brandon more or less said as much:

“That’s really what the intention of the series was — a great fan development tool for us, while at the same point taking a significant amount of (ticket) inventory out of the Buffalo market.”

The Bills and Rogers on Wednesday announced a one-year postponement of the series.

One thought on “Since renewal, Bills making ‘basically the same’ money off Toronto games as regular home games

  1. Deus02

    John, I must admit that there is something here that just doesn’t add up. If the Bills say that they have doubled Canadian ticket sales to 18% of their total, that automatically means to me that those are tickets that are not being purchased by fans in WNY, hence, a greater reliance on Canadians to buy tickets at the Ralph, after all, they haven’t expanded the stadium. Despite these increased sales from the Canadian market the Bills covet so much, they had only TWO official sellouts of the seven played last year at the Ralph with some other tickets subsidized by the team to prevent blackouts.

    There is no doubt this series has been far from a success much of this as a result of fourteen straight years out of the playoffs, however, it looks to me like that despite the rhetoric,the Bills are kind of firing “a shot across the bow” of Bills fans unequivocally stating “you wanted that Toronto game back, you got it, now buy tickets in December”, even if it could be a fifteenth straight year out of the playoffs.

    Some more pressure on the poor Bills fans to continue to buy tickets for an inferior product. Apparently, Toronto fans aren’t so gullible. For the Bills, this season will be interesting especially, the financial side.

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