Yes, tickets to sporting events are still sold at face value through stadium and arena box offices. But who does that anymore?
The concept of “dynamic pricing” for sporting event and concert tickets has been discussed for years. Instead of offering seats at flat prices determined by section and proximity to the action, prices in a dynamic model would fluctuate based on demand. Some owners of event venues and sports teams are interested in switching to dynamic pricing as a way to maximize revenues—to get the most money out of each seat, sometimes by raising prices, or by lowering them to unload a ticket that otherwise would go unsold.
Thanks to the rise of secondhand sellers such as StubHub and the ubiquity of scalpers online today, we essentially already have a dynamic pricing market in effect. Purchasing tickets from a reseller is not only easier than buying from a stadium box office nowadays, it’s often much cheaper.
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Tickets to Miami Marlins’ games, for example, are routinely offered below face value—sometimes for $3 or less, according to the Miami New Times. Even this early in the season, there are situations in which baseball seats sell for far above the price listed on the ticket; interleague games among cross-town teams like the White Sox and the Cubs, with serious bragging rights at stake, are guaranteed to be hot sellers. Playoff and championship game tickets are also likely to sell for far above face value. The ticket-buying site TiqIQ just released a study indicating that fans in Oklahoma City are paying an average of $1,300.42 per ticket for seats to the NBA Finals, compared to $838.41 for games taking place at the home arena of their opponent, the Miami Heat.
The problem, from the perspective of sports franchises and event venues, is that they’re not receiving the maximum benefit from the price fluctuations of today’s dynamic secondary sales model. At least one major franchise aims to do something about it. The New York Post reports that the Yankees are likely to be ending their relationship with StubHub.
The story notes that, according to ticket search engine SeatGeek, in April and May roughly two-thirds of Yankees tickets sold for less than face value (17% less, on average) at ticket exchange sites. Field Level seats, which sell for $130 at face value, have been averaging $76 on the secondary market. The odd state of resales and exchange sites may even be leading to speculators shorting ticket prices on StubHub, according to the Post:
They agree to sell a ticket for, say, $100 for a game in August, and then, since they do not have to buy the ticket until a week before the game, purchase the same ticket for less on StubHub and keep the difference.
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The Yankees would like to take control over the resale market for several reasons. When resale ticket prices on secondary sites are cheap, that obviously hurts the box office: Who, after all, would pay face value at the stadium when tickets are available for a fraction of that price online, with fees and all? By now, fans also know that they’ll be rewarded by waiting to buy their tickets. A pattern has been set in which an influx of tickets is all but sure to hit the secondary market within a few days of a game, and all that supply knocks prices lower and lower. Again, this kills Yankee efforts to sell tickets directly to fans at full face value.
In the days before StubHub and the rest, it was usually the case that scalpers were the last, most expensive option for fans. Those who couldn’t get tickets from the box office had little choice but to deal with scalpers outside the stadium, and tickets often sold at prices higher than fans hoped to pay. Now, though, it’s the stadium box office that’s selling tickets at what seem to exorbitantly high prices, and it’s the resellers that are offering the best prices.
The Post cites sources that indicate the Yankees will be taking control of ticket resales next year. The team “may restrict how many tickets fans can sell and how close to game time they can sell them,” and will supposedly charge less in commissions for resales than StubHub.
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Still, it’s fuzzy what such a Yankees-controlled ticket resale situation might truly look like. Would the Yankees’ website advertise cheaper secondhand seats right next to full-priced box office seats? Would box office prices fluctuate or remain set? We’ll have to wait and see. It seems fairly unlikely, however, that neither the Yankees nor any other Major League Baseball team would ever officially sell tickets for $1.45.
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.