When StubHub, the online secondary ticket marketplace, burst onto the sports scene in 2000, it was welcomed by fans and professional sports teams alike as a secure place to purchase tickets outside of the evil Ticketmaster monopoly. The StubHub service has been wildly popular, raising tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, and being acquired by eBay in 2007.
Today, StubHub has formal sponsorships with sports teams from the NFL, NBA, NHL, and NCAA, along with deals from all teams in MLB, MLS, and the CFL. The partnerships seemed to make sense, with fairly obvious benefits: an option for season ticket holders to unload unwanted tickets, a chance for any fan to attend a “must-see” sporting event regardless of the demand, a somewhat controlled secondary market that helps sweep those unsavory ticket sellers on your arena corner partially under the rug, and of course, the revenue. However, a recent experience trying to sell two of my own tickets has me seriously questioning whether StubHub’s connections with professional sports teams have turned out to be what the leagues had intended.
My questions about the perceived value of sporting event tickets all started the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The Chiefs were hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arrowhead Stadium’s very first appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Despite coming into the game losers of three straight, the Chiefs had staved off being flexed out of the Sunday night game by beating the Chargers in a Monday Night thriller a month prior. I was very lucky to strike while the iron was hot, selling my two beloved seats at twice face value on StubHub to an unsuspecting Steelers fan, knowing I could upgrade later for less money.
My tickets went for $150 each – this was the secondary ticket market at its finest…. The Chiefs made their full asking price. I made a profit. An over-the-top traveling Steelers fan landed great seats at a perceptually hard stadium (that hasn’t actually had a hard sell out since 2003). StubHub did their job and inflated the perceived value of the tickets.
A best friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, was unfortunately not so lucky. We stood outside in sub-freezing temperatures for an hour and a half before kickoff trying to unload two extra tickets. The parking lot was flooded with ticket sellers, but I could literally count the buyers on one hand. We ended up selling the tickets, with a face value of $100, at…. are you ready? Five Dollars A Piece. I told the buyers that the price was non-negotiable. There were other ticket scalpers trading tickets for beers.
The true market for even meaningful NFL game tickets, had unabashedly revealed itself. This scenario was okay for the Chiefs and the NFL. They had already made their money, and only a few ticket sellers and buyers knew that their product was way overpriced that night. However, more and more, StubHub is showing the true market for tickets in plain sight.
Being Christmas weekend, I am also trying to sell the same two tickets that I doubled my money on for the Steelers game, to tomorrow’s matchup with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders are traditionally one of the most anticipated opponents of the Chiefs regular season, but a look on StubHub Wednesday morning, before many of the listings had expired, found that tickets to one of the most historical rivalries in all of sports, were being offered as low as $2.00 per ticket.
While this is the lowest ticket price of any NFL game this weekend, the Raiders vs. Chiefs matchup was not alone in sub-Extra Value Meal ticket prices. Tickets for both the Jacksonville Jaguars at Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings at Washington Redskins were going for $5.00 apiece. Granted, it is a holiday weekend and in two of the three cases, there aren’t playoff implications. That being said, the best sports league North America has to offer cannot possibly like to see their products selling in exchange for a five dollar bill. The NFL doesn’t have a “Five dollar… Five Dollar… Five Dollar Ticketttts” jingle for a reason.
On the other side of the spectrum, tickets for the Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints Monday Night Football game were listed at a minimum of $208.00. Do you think the higher prices make up for the deflated values?
In a time when the economy is still recovering and fans are faced with ever-expanding entertainment options, I have to believe that StubHub is nothing but a downward pressure on sporting event ticket prices. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and any stories you have to share about your adventures in the secondary ticket market.
Is StubHub helping or hurting professional sports teams?