Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bills get new deal to play in T.O.

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TORONTO -- The Buffalo Bills Toronto Series was unveiled originally as an opportunity to showcase the city as a potential home for an NFL franchise.

Five years later, it seems more about providing premium content for Rogers Communications Inc., than luring a NFL franchise north of the border.

On Tuesday, the Bills and Rogers Media extended the agreement another five years. Starting next season, Buffalo will play one regular-season game annually at Toronto's Rogers Centre as well as an exhibition contest in 2015.

The inaugural agreement expired following the Seattle Seahawks' lopsided 50-17 win over Buffalo in December.

But an extension had been expected as the two sides had been talking for roughly a year.

Financial terms weren't divulged but the deal is expected to be worth significantly less than the US$78 million Buffalo received in the original agreement.

That one called for eight contests (five regular season, three exhibition) to be played in Toronto from 2008 to '12.

The original series was unveiled by Bills owner Ralph Wilson, the late Ted Rogers, who headed up Rogers Communications Inc., and Larry Tanenbaum of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Series organizers never spoke about Buffalo's long-term future in western New York but called the series an opportunity to showcase Toronto as a viable home for an NFL franchise.

On Tuesday, Rogers Media president Keith Pelley and Bills CEO Russ Brandon were front and centre to announce the extension at Rogers Centre with series director Greg Albrecht and Buffalo head coach Doug Marrone also attending. There was no talk this time about Rogers potentially luring an NFL franchise north as Pelley said the deal was extended purely for business reasons.

"I can't speak of what the real reason was five years ago because I wasn't here," said Pelley.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2013 C8

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