Buffalo Bills shouldn’t fetch $1 billion when they are sold


(AP Photo/Bill Wippert)

The Buffalo Bills are officially on the market and there is a lot of interest. Tom Golisano, Donald Trump, Terry Pegula and a Toronto group that includes Jon Bon Jovi and Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, have all been linked as potential suitors. Bon Jovi even had a two-hour lunch with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in New York on Thursday.

“They were definitely talking business,” a source told the New York Post. “Jon was taking notes — he had a pen and paper with him at the table.”

The price tag for an NFL franchise will be large. After all, if an NBA franchise can be worth $2 billion, what could an NFL team go for? Turns out it should be significantly less, in part due to the lack of  local television revenue available to NFL teams.

NBA and MLB franchises can negotiate their own, local TV deals. NFL teams cannot, although they get bazillions from national television rights. The Padres’ worth jumped to $800 million when John Moores sold them after a $1.2-billion deal with Fox Sports. The Dodgers’ value leaped when they worked out a $7-billion Deal with Time Warner, which is still somewhat of a mess.

The most recent TV deal is worth $27 billion to the NFL, which mean every team gets more than $200 million per team before one ticket, beer or jersey is sold. And that revenue can be expected to increase as the contract with DirecTV expires this season for NFL Sunday Ticket.

NFL Sunday Ticket has been offered exclusively to DirecTV subscribers since 1994, and the two sides are in talks to renew to renew the $4 billion agreement. But Dish Network is also showing interest.

“It’s the only exclusive still left for TV content,” Dish’s senior vice president of product management Vivek Khemka said recently. “I’d be an idiot to say I didn’t want it.”

With NFL TV rights expected to rise from just shy of $6 billion a year to more than $17 billion per year it is tempting to say some silly money will be thrown at the Wilson estate for the Bills, but history shows that not to be the case.

According to Forbes, the NFL’s 32 teams are worth, on average, $1.17 billion, 5 percent more than last year and a steady increase over the last decade.

Two years ago, Jimmy Haslam bought the Browns reportedly for $1.05 billion. The Browns were valued at $977 million the year before by Forbes magazine, 20th in the NFL. Before that, Shad Khan purchased the Jaguars for $760 million after a valuation of $725 million.

Over the past decade, the reported sales price has closely mirrored the Forbes valuations, and with the Buffalo Bills value of $870 million, 30th out of the 32 NFL teams, it would be surprising if they were acquired for much more than that.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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