Monday, June 09, 2003
Dave Pinto at BaseballMusings.com points to an article in the NYTimes on variable ticket pricing and gives it a thumbs up. Basically, sellers try to segment the market by charging different prices for different days of the week and/or different opponents.
I am the last person that will cry about "the poor pitiful fans" who complain about high ticket and souvenir prices. I will question though the value/benefit of this for the franchises. First of all, if this is such a great deal, why not just sell all the seats on eBay or their own auction site and get all the marginal revenue possible for all the tickets to all the games? I don't think it's that costly to implement technologically. I think it's because even baseball owners, who would love to be getting the prices that scalpers get (esp. as priced for Cubs games and other select markets), know that they can only expect to benefit in limited circumstances. Those circumstances are typically when casual fans--people who are not season ticket holders and/or have no interest in the sport as a sporting event but only go for the "social" aspects (e.g., on business accounts. to see and be seen and be the talk of cocktail parties). They attract new money and new butts to the seats and displace old money and old butts--not all of them, as some will fork over the money, but most won't.
And this is the second problem: these marginal consumers, while contributing extra money, don't value the product. They're not coming back for that Wednesday afternoon game against the Devil Rays or that Thursday night basketball game against the Grizzlies. Sure, the team benefits from the influx of cash, and maybe that extra money is turned into new talent/production on the field (though probably only if they have a Beane-disciple in the front office). By stating that some games are more valuable than others, you create a situation in which some games are clearly less valuable. And when you alienate the fans who really care and really show up by pricing them out of the best games when they've been coming during the lean years, they've started in motion a change in the tastes of the baseball fan. Without them to support the prices for the crappy games, the bottom will fall out of the market. Is a Thursday night Expos-Cardinals game in the last row of the upper deck really worth $22? Shit, no. That's why they had to institute half-price sales for that game. They will start substituting to other leagues (e.g., should I go to the Bowie Baysox or the Baltimore Orioles) and other entertainment as well. They may not renew that season ticket. They will continue undermining the value of the product in the non-premium games. What happens when your entire city refuses to go to games? Detroit? If the tickets were free, would people show up there?
There may come a time when this is the standard. Imagine $20 opening night tickets for the next Matrix sequel. Or $30. Or adult prices (or higher) to kids on the next Disney feature. When you try to get every dollar out of people, you antagonize them to the point where they are that much more reluctant to shell out a dollar for you at all. Sometimes you have to hold the line on the upper end of prices in order to hold the line at the bottom end.
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