It’s the middle of winter and wicked cold so it must be time to talk a little baseball. The Wall Street Journal had a short article on pricing baseball tickets (When Did Buying Tickets Get So Complicated? Jan 4) that remarked on how many baseball teams now sell a wide product line of tickets:
The complications come in two forms: number of seating locations in the ballpark and number of different pricing tiers. The Mets have an astronomical 190 single-game ticket options, with 38 stadium locations and five pricing tiers that charge differently depending on the game, ranging from a Tuesday night tilt against the Nationals (cheap) to the season opener (not cheap). Across the league, the most typical pricing change is a markup when the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees come to town. The Tampa Bay Rays charge as much as 82% more for Saturday and Sunday games against these division foes than a weekday game against anyone else.
Here is the data for the “worst” offenders:
This is an interesting example of demand management. To some extent, a move to day and opponent dependent pricing is simply reflecting what everyone knows. A weekend game against a good opponent will always be more popular than a “get away game” on Wednesday afternoon against, let’s just say, the Pirates. A more aggressive use of price tiers should in fact benefit fans who buy single game tickets since some games should now be much cheaper. If your kid hypothetically wants to see a Nats game (remember this is hypothetical), it should now be possible to have a cheap afternoon at the ballpark. Games against popular opponents may be out of reach but these were likely going to be the ones that sell out quickly anyway. That is, for popular games, rationing risk has been replaced by steep price hikes.
I am less certain how this affects season ticket holders and ticket brokers. I suspect that teams tweak the tiers so that season ticket holds are roughly unaffected. They pay more to see the Red Sox (as they should) but get a break on the Rangers. (Disclaimer: I am number 91,575 on the list for Cubs season tickets; living down the street from the Ricketts apparently doesn’t help you jump that queue.) Brokers likely lose a bit. The team has now signaled what they think are the good match ups and that probably drives up the brokers cost of getting tickets. It likely leaves the sale side unaffected; the brokers already knew which games were hot.
A final point. Tiered pricing should create windfalls for some buyers. Every now and then there is a team that is unexpectedly hot and remains in contention later than anyone imagined during spring training. That very easily could lead to under priced tickets if a host team didn’t anticipate that a late season match up could actually be a hot ticket.