Dynamic pricing by the Seahawks may be backfiring as tickets aren’t selling as quickly for home games. In some cases, ticket resellers are selling similar tickets for less than the team.
Inside sports business
A growing concern for Seahawks fans in recent seasons was their inability to buy single-game tickets from anybody but resale brokers.
Times sure have changed. Single-game tickets can now be found on the team’s website almost right up until kickoff. Friday, dozens of seats for the “Monday Night Football” clash with the Detroit Lions remained available from the team via its official Ticketmaster vendor.
Only one problem: the team is selling those tickets for the same inflated prices brokers do. In some cases, they’re pricing seats even higher than secondary marketplaces like StubHub and Vivid Seats.
Welcome to the world of dynamic pricing — which the Seahawks and several other NFL teams have embarked on for the first time. In technical terms, dynamic pricing involves charging fluctuating ticket rates based on perceived demand for games.
But out on the street, scalpers have done that for decades: charging several times a ticket’s face value for popular events. These days, the scalpers that once lurked in alleys have been rebranded as ticket resellers — forming companies and doing sales online.
And some of the biggest emerging competitors for StubHub, Vivid Seats and local brokers like Epic Seats and Venue Kings, are teams like the Seahawks with direct access to the ticket supply.
Last winter, the Seahawks pulled about 4,000 season-ticket accounts from known brokers under the guise of giving back to fans. The team has a season-ticket waiting list of 12,000 and made 2,000 of the former broker-held seats available to those fans each week for $62 apiece.
But the Seahawks also earmarked 2,000 ticket accounts taken from brokers for their dynamic-pricing venture. And in some cases, the team is now charging more than brokers for seats.
A glance at Ticketmaster on Friday found the Seahawks offering upper-level seats for the Nov. 29 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at $325 to $385 apiece. StubHub was selling in the same sections — sometimes even closer to the action — for less money up-front.
Two seats in Section 341 were going for $325 apiece on Ticketmaster, while a pair a few rows down were offered by StubHub at $300.
Even though brokers notoriously charge hefty fees, the “all-in” price on StubHub was $706.50 compared to $723.04 for the team’s tickets.
A pair of Section 328 seats were offered for $723.04 “all in” by the Seahawks, but StubHub wanted just $683 for seats two rows farther back.
The Seahawks declined to make anyone available to comment, but issued a statement that dynamic pricing has gone well and they expect to sell out every home game. They correctly noted that dynamic pricing is common in other sports. Indeed, the Mariners have used it since 2012.
But unlike the Seahawks, the Mariners have 81 home games instead of eight, which limits demand. The Mariners also aren’t keeping thousands of fans on waiting lists while they sell seats on the side for four or five times face value.
If this sounds like a cash grab, that’s because it is.
The Seahawks have moved to squeeze out brokers and secure secondary-market money for themselves. While some people love the idea of brokers being driven out of business, the Seahawks’ aggressive business tactics are partly why their fans now pay the NFL’s highest street prices for seats.
By pulling tickets from brokers, the Seahawks forced many to recoup losses by charging more for seats they still had.
Those higher street prices benefit the Seahawks, since their dynamic pricing practically mirrors the secondary market. Higher broker prices means the team can also charge more and boost profits.
Fortunately for fans, though, street prices have declined since the season began. It seems even diehard 12s have limits on how much they’ll pay.
SeatGeek tracks resale ticket prices and says those for Monday’s game fell 29 percent since the season began. On Sept. 14, the median list price was $467. By Friday, that price was $330.
And that’s why the Seahawks no longer sell out instantly; their own prices are too high. Even loyal fans are balking at the $464.40 the Seahawks want for two goal-line seats in the very last row of CenturyLink Field to see the Cleveland Browns in December.
If the Seahawks want to mirror the secondary market, then, just like brokers, they’ll inevitably have to lower prices as the game approaches or be stuck with unsold inventory.
Are prices falling because the Seahawks have a losing record? Or is it the winless records of their first two home opponents?
SeatGeek spokesman Chris Leyden says it’s too early to reach conclusions. He added that, even with street prices falling, the Seahawks still have the NFLs highest average resale ticket price at $321 — up from $317 a year ago.
But a hefty amount of those sales are coming just before games. For the home opener against Chicago, 37 percent of sales came the previous week.
That’s a sign, Leyden says, that fans are waiting out the secondary market for a better deal.
And they’re apparently willing to wait out the Seahawks as well. Unless Hawks fans get a price break, seeing unsold seats on Ticketmaster days before kickoff is about to become the new norm.