Vikings among tiered ticket-pricing teams

The Vikings are among about half the NFL teams now employing the ticket-pricing strategy.

So you want to see the Steelers play the Seahawks? Plan to spend more money for that ticket than for some other homes games in Seattle.

Got a hankering for Packers at Vikings, or Broncos at Chiefs? Open up the wallet. Wide.

Half of the NFL’s 32 teams are using variable pricing for their tickets this season, including the entire NFC West and AFC East. Only in the AFC South is the cost of entry for all home games not structured in tiers, pretty understandable considering the division’s occupants besides the Colts.

“Variable/dynamic pricing allows our organization to set single game prices that more closely reflect market value,” Chargers CEO A.G. Spanos said.

He said things like opponents, timing and secondary market data factor into varied prices.

Under the system, teams charge more for marquee games, less for the least intriguing. It has been a big part of the NBA, NHL and MLB and has made significant inroads now in pro football.

It makes sense that for, say, the Dolphins, top tier matchups feature the Patriots, Cowboys and Giants. The Jets almost certainly would fit in that group if the game were being played in Miami; it’s in London this year.

By raising revenues from those games, the Dolphins can lower prices for games against the Falcons and Buccaneers, increasing the chances of a sellout.

Kansas City is in its second season using variable pricing, and also has gone to dynamic pricing for some games; the cost of tickets fluctuate by demand under dynamic pricing.

The Chiefs took season ticket holder prices and researched what other teams and leagues were doing.

“And our objective was to make sure that season ticket members get the best value, so what we did, all of our season ticket members are not impacted by variable pricing,” says Chiefs President Mark Donovan. “We used all the new data, set the variable price based on single game and groups, and then in addition, we set dynamic pricing. After that first week of sales, all those single and group tickets are dynamically priced — the price could go up based on demand and inventory throughout the year.”

Donovan’s approach emphasizes the secondary market. But Glenn Lehrman, global head of communications for StubHub, doesn’t see variable or dynamic pricing having much impact on his company.

“Past dynamic pricing, it never captured the true market dynamics,” Lehrman says. “The tickets would never go as low as they needed to for a game on a Tuesday night when you have bad weather, and never goes as high as they needed on a Game 7 night. The team gets some extra revenue, but it does not affect StubHub.”

And with variable pricing, teams set prices well in advance. If a team is 8-0 when it plays its top division rival, the value of that ticket is likely much higher than whatever price was established earlier. And if the team is 0-8, then, there’s hardly any real worth to the ticket.

“It’s hard to know six months in advance which teams will be great,” Lehrman says.

Besides, Lehrman believes more fans than ever wait before purchasing.

“Because buying tickets to events is becoming so last minute, most people start with StubHub or another secondary market,” he says. “It’s 60 to 70 percent who are coming directly to us.”

The franchises employing either variable or dynamic pricing — or both — are the Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals, Rams, Falcons, Lions, Vikings, Bills, Jets, Patriots, Dolphins, Chiefs, Chargers, Browns and Steelers. The Cowboys use variable pricing for “party passes,” which are standing room tickets; it might cost a fan $55 for the Seahawks but $35 for the Falcons.

Seattle announced this week it had taken back 4,000 tickets from brokers and is redistributing 2,000 of them to fans on a waiting list. The other 2,000 will be single-game tickets sold dynamically “at prices that fluctuate based on market demands,” the team said.

The Steelers had two tiers for pricing last season, their first using variables. They upped that to three for this season.

Longtime Jets season ticket holder Ira Lieberfarb thinks the NFL is getting it wrong and should price regular-season tickets similarly across the board and sell preseason tickets at half price. He says variable pricing is the wave of the future, even though he finds it annoying.

“The NFL realizes it is difficult to sell tickets for games that are not that attractive, so they lower those prices,” he said. “And then, of course, Jets-Patriots, it’s call your own shot, name your price.”




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