Dukes of Awesome

Master Debaters: How much are the Bills’ Toronto games really worth? by realwiley

errantremark: Did you see how much the bills are making on the TO games? $78 million. I can’t fault them playing up there, even with controversy.

realwiley: No, it was never a bad idea, per se.

errantremark: It does make one realize just how enticing it is to move them.

realwiley: Right. But we knew that. I mean, I think the bottom line is, they won’t move when Ralph is alive. When he dies, his family will sell the team, guaranteed. The games they’ve scheduled are all mildly beside the point.

errantremark: Yeah, but I didn’t realize just how much money that is. I mean, that’s only for one game a year for 5 years. Over a whole season, I know it evens out a little, but wow. Once Ralph passes, who knows? God I hope Jim Kelly, Golisano, et al can keep the team here.

realwiley: Me too. The key is, Ralph needs to outlive an LA move.

It hasn’t gotten much attention, but this guy in LA is building a $800 million stadium that’s completely privately financed. Goddell was asked about it at the draft, he said the NFL will not expand, so a team’s probably going to move to LA. The question is, will Minny or Jax or San Diego or whoever do it, before the Bills go up for sale then I think we’re looking at Toronto, worst-case.

errantremark: I think Jax would be the most likely of those two – and it would make the most sense. They’re the only team that brings in LESS than the Bills do. [ed. Note: I couldn’t find the most recent rankings but in 2004 the 9-7 Bills ranked 21 in yearly revenues, topping even the big market rival Jets.]

realwiley: Yeah, the NFL might like Jax too, if only because it minimizes a fan riot. You don’t want a replay of Cleveland in ‘95.

errantremark: Seriously.

realwiley: Thinking about it, we may be putting too much into the Toronto numbers. For one, that’s not the revenue generated by the games, it’s just what Rogers paid us to get them.

errantremark: You know they’ll sell out all the games.

realwiley: And I wouldn’t be surprised if he overpaid in order to get his foot in the door. Sure, they will. But it doesn’t necessarily reflect the NFL interest in Toronto. I mean, it might be high. I’m not saying that. But condensing all the fans into one game per year may be skewing whatever it is.

errantremark: right, I know it skews a bit because it’s more of a yearly event than a regular occurrence, but 78 mil for 5 games is NOT ridiculous.

And TO has a huge NFL demand. [ed. Note: speculation]

realwiley: Maybe, maybe not. I mean it probably does, i just haven’t seen it measured

errantremark: If you check their TV ratings, I’m sure NFL games rate well.

realwiley: That may be true, but i still think it’s an unsettled issue:

“According to a Toronto Star-Decima Research poll conducted late last month, 76 per cent of respondents said they had no interest at all in the NFL, the highest figure for any of the sports involved in the survey.”

That’s Nov. 06.

errantremark: Let’s apply that statistic to the whole of Toronto: That still leaves 1.1 million people into the NFL.

realwiley: But it’s all irrelevant if Rogers thinks he can make it work. Because if he buys, he buys, that’s it. And it looks like he wants to.

errantremark: 1.1 million is bigger than the ENTIRE Buffalo metro area.

realwiley: Sure, but the Bills draw fans from all over the region, and responding “yes” in a poll doesn’t necessarily equate to buying tickets. Whereas saying NO does translate.

errantremark: True, but the money potential is still 5x greater. With a local team you can pretty much guarantee to convert at least 10 percent of the population to interest, just by having a team. With marketing, let’s add another 10 percent. That’s 2 million people into NFL football right there. Add the outlying Toronto areas, Hamilton, etc. and you have a huge population to draw on, one populated by wealthier versions of Buffalo residents, demographic-wise.

realwiley: Maybe. That’s a lot of extrapolation though.

errantremark: It’s not ludicrous extrapolation.

realwiley: I think what gives Toronto the real edge is this: businesses

Buffalo will sell out the games. Toronto will sell out the games.

But in Buffalo, there aren’t a ton of big corporations to buy luxury suites. In Toronto, there are, and that’s the big money maker there.

errantremark: Plus, think TO merchandise – as long as they don’t do something stupid like naming the team after a cheap promotional tie-in (which set the Raptors back in jersey sales more than simply having Vince Carter), they’ll make a killing.

realwiley: Maybe. What I’d be interested to know is if the NFL ever has, or would, not approve a higher bidder who was looking to move the team.

Like, I think Buffalo investors will offer the Wilsons market value, or even a bit above, to keep the team. But this guy in LA, or Rogers in Toronto, can just tack on a hundred million if they want, and blow the Buffalo group out of the water. So, can we raise enough ruckus to force the NFL to only accept the Buffalo deal, since it did meet or exceed market price, even if it’s not as lucrative as an LA or TO deal?

errantremark: As much as I can understand considering Toronto, you’re right on the money with the Cleveland analogy: I think it behooves the NFL to keep a team in Buffalo. I think they have to accept market price to keep a team in town. I mean, the Rams moved from LA to St. Louis – big lucrative (albeit indifferent) market to a small one. Buffalo is a passionate and modestly profitable market, and will continue to be, with a team with entrenched fans.