Bills, Rogers announce new 5-year partnership

January 29, 2013, 12:43 PM

The Buffalo Bills and Rogers announced new a five-year partnership that will see the Bills play a total of six games in over the next five years.

The Bills will play one regular season game each season from 2013 and through 2017, plus one pre-season game in 2015.

The last deal was a five-year agreement signed in 2008. The Bills have gone 1-4 during regular season games in Toronto since the series began

Despite the lack of success the Bills have had on the field in Toronto, Bills president and CEO Russ Brandon said the thought of not renewing this series never went through his mind.

“The Bills partnership with Rogers Media is key to our franchise’s regionalization plan and we are excited to continue it for years to come,” Brandon said in a press release. “Our regionalization efforts have strengthened the franchise’s foothold in Western New York by supporting our efforts to further develop our fan base in Toronto and Southern Ontario. The Bills-Rogers Media partnership continues to give us tremendous exposure in the market and its success will only accelerate with a few wins on the field.”

President of Rogers Media Keith Pelley said a lot has been learned about what it takes to market the Bills in Toronto since 2008, but overall Canadian fans enjoy seeing live National Football League action.

“We’ve certainly learned a lot over the past five years with this relationship,” Pelley said at a press conference at the Rogers Centre Tuesday. “The appetite for the NFL and the appetite for the Buffalo Bills is here in Toronto.”

In December, following a 50-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Bills centre Eric Wood referred to the series as being “a joke” because although they are officially Bills home games, the atmosphere is unlike that of Ralph Wilson Stadium — the Bills home field located in Orchard Park, N.Y.

“We by no means try and replicate (games in Buffalo) here at the Rogers Centre,” Brandon said. “We understand that emotions run high. From that standpoint I understand (Wood’s) opinion, I respect it. As a franchise, we need to win games wherever we play.

“Our commitment is that we have to bring a winning product to the field. We fell on that last year. We didn’t play good football (in December). Simple as that.”

Bills new head coach Doug Marrone agreed that if the team plays better and wins their games in Toronto then the players will have little to complain about.

“When people talk about advantages and disadvantage … our responsibility is to play football,” Marrone said. “Wherever we play, it’s our responsibility to win and put a good product on the field.”

Brandon added that the Bills in Toronto series has widened the franchise’s fan base and he expects that trend to continue.

“We’re like many other businesses in Buffalo. Southern Ontario and Toronto are very important. We need to win more and turn people who are fans of the NFL into Bills fans,” Brandon explained.

“When we embarked on this, one of our plans was to make sure we had more fans from Southern Ontario to come to (Buffalo).”

Brandon said that when the series began 11 per cent of the Bills’ fan base came from the GTA, but today that figure is up to 20 per cent.

Pelley added that the addition of Greg Albrecht, Rogers Media executive director of Bills in Toronto, has been key to the growth and success of the series.

“We knew we needed to make some changes. We needed someone to work on this series 24/7. That was Greg,” Pelley said. “I am confident that this game with everything that surrounds it will be a really large success.”

Bills in Toronto games will continue to air nationally on Sportsnet and City TV each year.

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