SPORTS

Buffalo Bills' bid to extend Toronto series on NFL International Committee agenda

05/15/2012 05:25 EDT | Updated 07/15/2012 05:12 EDT
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - The Buffalo Bills' bid to extend their series of playing regular-season games in Toronto could take a big step forward before the end of the month, barring a setback in negotiations.

League spokesman Michael Signora wrote in an email on Tuesday that the Toronto series will be on the NFL International Committee's agenda for its next meeting. The meeting is scheduled to take place this month, but no date has been set.

In March, NFL owners voted to give the committee authority to make decisions regarding the series, which began five years ago.

Though Signora declined to discuss the status of talks between the Bills and Toronto-based Rogers Communications, the two sides have previously expressed optimism that a new deal will be reached to extend the series before it expires after this season.

Rogers Media president Keith Pelley maintained that optimism in a statement the company released on Tuesday.

"Discussions are ongoing with the Buffalo Bills about extending the Bills Toronto Series deal," Pelley said. "While I am cautiously optimistic, we have nothing to announce at this time."

Bills CEO Russ Brandon was out of the office and not available for comment.

The Sports Business Journal reported on Monday that an extension of the series appears imminent.

The new deal is expected to be similar to the original one in covering five years and featuring one annual regular-season and three preseason games. What's expected to be reduced is the $78 million the Bills received from Rogers in the previous agreement.

Having had difficulty selling out games in Toronto, Rogers is seeking to cut ticket prices for the series, which could reduce the overall value of the new deal.

The Bills regard the series as key to their long-term survival by extending its reach north of the border in the small-market team's bid to generate additional revenue.

The series has so far paid off for the Bills. They have experienced a significant boost in season-ticket sales from fans in southern Ontario, who now represent about 15 per cent of the team's base.

Rogers has benefited as well. The deal has allowed the communications giant to establish ties with North America's most lucrative sport.

The Bills will "host" Seattle at Toronto's downtown Rogers Centre this season. They were originally set to play a preseason game in August, but that game has been returned to Orchard Park because of a scheduling conflict.

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