The Buffalo Bills will buck a new league trend by continuing to mandate that Ralph Wilson Stadium be sold out before allowing the region to watch broadcasts of home games.
The NFL is now allowing its franchises to follow an eased blackout policy requiring at least 85 percent of stadium seats to be sold to lift the blackout. But the Bills say the change doesn't make financial sense for the small-market team.
The Buffalo Bills are taking hits over their decision, with Rep. Brian Higgins issued a statement calling the move "disappointing." Higgins says it's "fundamentally unfair and fiscally short-sighted" that the Bills will require a stadium sellout in order for local fans to view home games on local television.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he is not surprised at the decision.
"I feel if they had gone with the blackout rule, they probably would have asked us for more money to generate the additional revenue that they would have lost," Poloncarz told WBFO and AM 970 News.
Poloncarz says his goal, first and foremost, is to ensure that the team stays in Buffalo for years to come. Part of that include ongoing stadium lease negotiations between the team and the county.
The Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers are expected to join the Bills in rejecting new guidelines that allow teams to lift local blackouts of home games if 85 percent of stadium seats are sold.
In an interview with the Buffalo News, Buffalo Bills executive Russ Brandon defended the decision. He argues the team needs to keep ticket prices low and ticket sales high if they are to remain economically viable.
Brandon also pointed out that only one of the team's last six blackouts would have been impacted by the 85-percent policy.