Ever Wonder Why Sports Tickets Sell Out So Quickly?
Good luck finding a seat.
“Tickets! Tickets! Who needs tickets? I got your tickets right here!”
If you were to walk outside any sporting arena or stadium, you’ll hear those words coming out of the mouths of ticket scalpers trying to make a few last-minute sales. Most scalpers aren’t even interested in watching the game. All they want to do is resell the tickets for profit and go about their day.
Why is a fan competing with a scalper for purchasing a ticket when the fan actually wants to go inside to watch their favorite team play? This becomes an even bigger problem when the event is a sellout. How does the scalper have extra tickets to resell for a higher price when the fan couldn’t even buy one when they originally went on sale?
Spoiler alert: The fan is at a disadvantage from the start and there is proof to back it up.
Last January, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman conducted a study concerning the live entertainment business and why New Yorkers struggle to access tickets at reasonable prices. The study, Obstructed View: What’s Blocking New Yorkers From Getting Tickets, showed that certain practices were preventing New Yorkers from purchasing tickets at the correct, affordable price, as well as purchasing tickets in general.
So why do we have to pay large fees in order to purchase the tickets that are available? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons:
Presales and holds reduce the amount of tickets for the general public
According to Schneiderman, over half of the available tickets are reserved for presale to certain groups such as a rewards members or select credit card holders.
Tickets are also put on hold by promoters, insiders at the venue, and even the athletes themselves to either give out or resell them.
Ticket bots are your worst nightmare
Bots are an illegal form of software that are designed to purchase tickets in high volume at quick speed—which allows scalpers to increase the resale price by a significant margin. CAPTCHAs (pictured below) try to eliminate bots by creating tests only humans can pass (like typing in distorted words), but newer software is making it easier for bots to solve these tests. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2014, one ticket bot purchased over 1,000 tickets in under a minute for a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden. In other words, humans don’t stand a chance against a bot.
Dynamic ticket pricing increases the price of admission
Why does the price of tickets in the same section of the stadium change almost daily? Because a system known as dynamic ticket pricing adjusts the price of the ticket based on the demand and quality of the game. A lot of this has to do with the location of the game, the record of both teams, and the star players on the opposing team.
Exhibit A: I went to Stubhub.com to look at New York Knicks tickets at Madison Square Garden for the upcoming season. I picked two different games, but used the same section of the arena to compare tickets. I chose the Knicks vs. Pistons and the Knicks vs. Cavaliers.
I came up with over a $120 difference between the two sets of tickets. This is where the dynamic ticket pricing comes into effect. Who do you think more people want to see, Reggie Jackson of the Pistons or Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers? No disrespect to Jackson, but Lebron James just won the NBA Championship with the Cavaliers and is regarded as the best player on the planet so therefore, Lebron’s ticket is a bigger draw.
Are these problems fixable?
Quite simply, yes and no. Some potential solutions are trying to gain traction in many arenas and stadiums across the country. The use of paperless tickets requires the buyer to present the credit card used to purchase the tickets upon arrival into the arena.
In an article for The Ringer, Former CEO of Ticketmaster Nathan Hubbard said that even if scalpers figure out a way to purchase the tickets via gift cards, “paperless ticketing would dramatically cripple the scalping industry.” Another way to potentially make more tickets available to the public is to issue criminal penalties for bot use, which would hopefully deter scalpers. Until then, fans will continue to fight an uphill battle.