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Alan Pergament: After being thrown for loss, WIVB to hit big payday for Bills-Chiefs title game

Alan Pergament: After being thrown for loss, WIVB to hit big payday for Bills-Chiefs title game

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Bills fever (copy)

A Bills banner hangs on a bridge at Canalside. 

The Buffalo Bills’ great regular season hasn’t been so great financially for WIVB-TV (Channel 4), the local CBS affiliate.

But don’t cry for Channel 4 anymore.

After being thrown for a loss in the regular season, the station is about to hit a big payday Sunday when Josh Allen and the Bills face off against the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes if he clears concussion protocol.

The postseason is so great for the station that it should shout “Go Bills” as loud as anyone in the Bills Mafia.

When the Bills aren’t very good or in the national conversation during the regular season, Channel 4 gets a much larger percentage of their games and the big advertising paydays that come with them.

The Bills will tangle with the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in Sunday's AFC championship game, Buffalo's first appearance in the round since 1994  a 30-13 win over Kansas City. See what Josh Allen and co. are up against, from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce to Andy Reid.

I’ve been told from sources over the years that each Bills game is worth about $150,000 in advertising revenue for a station depending on when they are played.

In the Bills’ current 15-3 season featuring multiple prime time and late afternoon games, Channel 4 has lost games with Kansas City, the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens that usually would have been carried by the station but this year have been carried on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2), WKBW-TV (Channel 7) and WUTV (Channel 29) and cable channels. WUTV also regularly gets at least two games each season.

With all the prime-time regular season losses, Channel 4 carried only nine regular season games, down two from 11 games in the 2019 season when the Bills lost in the wild-card round of the playoffs. That means the station could have been down by about $300,000 – $150,000 multiplied by two – in Bills ad revenue going into the postseason.

“It is true that the number of hometown team’s games on each network during the regular NFL season can fluctuate each year,” said WIVB General Manager Brien Kennedy. “Having our Buffalo Bills in the postseason, including the AFC championship this Sunday will help make up for games lost during the regular season. Like all Bills fans, I will be passionately rooting for our Bills on Sunday so they can compete for a world championship two weeks later in the Super Bowl on Channel 4.”

For competitive reasons, Kennedy isn’t about to say how much money the station stands to gain in the AFC title game Sunday at 6:40 p.m. and a potential Bills Super Bowl against Green Bay or Tampa Bay on Feb. 7.

But according to sources, Channel 4 may have almost tripled the expected regular season revenue for the wild-card victory over the Indianapolis Colts it carried on Jan.9.

The same sources say Channel 4 may hit or exceed $500,000 in advertising revenue for Sunday’s AFC title game with Kansas City. And if the Bills pull off an upset Sunday, having the Bills in the Super Bowl would get even get more than that. Much more.

The record payoff will be the result of what is expected to be a record TV rating.

The Bills’ 17-3 victory over the Ravens had a 52.8 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, which was the highest rated game in the more than two decades that meters have been in Buffalo.

The share was 75.2, which means that three quarters of the TV sets in Western New York turned on were watching the game.

There isn’t much room to get much higher than that, but a Bills Super Bowl could reasonably approach a 55 rating here.

So when it comes to Channel 4, the expression “Go Bills” has extra meaning.

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TV Critic

Alan Pergament has had a variety of roles at The News since 1970, including as a news and sports reporter. He has been the TV columnist since 1982, with more than year off for good behavior. He is a member of the national Television Critics Association.

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