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Marketplace Morning Report

What resale sites like StubHub are doing to the price of your ticket

Janet Nguyen Nov 14, 2018
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A view inside the Staples Center.
Daisy Palacios/Marketplace

When it comes to selling NBA tickets and merchandise, having the best basketball player in the league helps. Lebron James’ move to the Lakers, announced on July 1, led to massive ticket price increases on StubHub and a rise in merchandise sales even before the basketball season started

That should be good news for Anschutz Entertainment Group, which operates the Staples Center and owns a slice of the Lakers. 

Dan Beckerman, the CEO of AEG, recently spoke to Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal about the Staples Center’s effect on downtown LA and how the company handled the recession.

“We have a vested interest in making sure that our teams are successful. So in addition to it being rewarding for us to be at the games and watch us win, it’s also good for our business to be successful,” Beckerman said. 

We examined the cost of a seat at the Staples Center, on the primary market, over the course of a week for sporting events to see what it revealed about the ticket economy and how pricing works. 

Most sports teams in the NBA, NHL and MLB use a combination of variable pricing (which takes into account the time of day, season, and competitor) and dynamic pricing (which takes into account the current market demand and will adjust accordingly).

Weekend games, as you might expect, will typically have higher prices than weekday games, and evening games will usually cost more than day games, said Patrick Rishe, author of the sports business book “They Shoot… They Score!” and director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis. 

The power of a team’s brand and their success on the court, of course, play a big role as well.  

“When you compare the Lakers and the Clippers, there are a lot of reasons why the Lakers, historically, are going to have much greater prices. Clearly, they’ve won multiple championships over the years,” Rishe said.

The strength of a home team’s opponent also matters.

A Clippers vs. Pelicans single-game ticket in the week of Jan. 13-19 goes for almost $116 in Section 104, Row 16, Seat 11. But that same seat, when the Clippers play against the Warriors, goes for almost $335.  

“The Warriors are the reigning NBA champs — and they’re fun to watch,” said Dean Budnick, editor in chief of Relix magazine and co-author of the book “Ticket Masters: The rise of the Concert Industry and How the Public Got Scalped.

Another factor has been the rise of the secondary or resale market, which has led to a change in how teams set ticket prices, Budnick and Rishe said. Ticket prices for Lakers games on StubHub are up 427 percent over last season, and the average secondary list price for a game this season is $444 (compared to $299 last year). That could lead to an increase in ticket prices next year on the primary market. 

Let’s say statistical models indicate that you should increase prices for a Warriors vs. Lakers Game at the Staples Center by 20 percent. Teams are now able to see how much tickets are going for when they’re resold. If the secondary market suggests that it should have been a bit higher, then teams might factor that in when they price for the following season, explained Rishe. 

“The extent to which there are these open platforms where people can resell tickets anywhere in the world — and also see what other people are selling their tickets for — has initiated a revolution, really, across live entertainment events,” Budnick said.  

Click the audio player above to hear Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal’s conversation with AEG CEO Dan Beckerman.

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