Ticket imageI remember when fans could go up to the box office and pay the same amount for day of game tickets as they would shell out for advanced purchases to avoid online ticket fees. Then came day of game increases (albeit by a few bucks). I remember when fans would pay the same price for the same ticket, regardless of opponent. Then came increases for rivalry or “prime” games. I remember when fans could pay the same price for the same opponent, regardless of the day of the week. Then came variable ticket pricing. The days of flat ticket pricing are over. No longer can fans expect to pay the same price for the same seat at every game, regardless of time, opponent, or day of game.

Now, many teams use variable ticket pricing to set different prices for the same seat depending on the day of the week, time of the game, and the opponent. The goal for using the variable ticket pricing structure is to charge more for the higher-demand games (i.e., games on weekends, rivalry games, and contests against popular opponents). On the flip side, teams charge less for lower-demand games in effort to make those games more attractive to fans.

The Baltimore Orioles instituted variable ticket pricing for the 2014 season. They have five different “classifications” of games, listed here in order of least to most expensive, with the number of games in parenthesis: Value (6), Classic (49), Select (7), Prime (14), and Elite (5).

[1] The Elite games include Opening Day, and Saturday games against the Yankees, Cardinals, and Red Sox. Prime games include most non-Saturday games against those same teams. The prices for Value and Classic games, which make up the bulk of the team’s schedule, are actually decreased from 2013 – last year, non-prime single-game tickets averaged $32.04; this year, Value games average $26.68 and Classic games average $30.05.

How do teams come up with these systems? Most, including the Detroit Lions, used data to determine the cost structure of their variable pricing system. “Data from the secondary market has equipped us to make more educated and fair pricing decisions based on anticipated demand,” said Vice President of Ticketing and Suite Sales Todd Lambert. “We’re now using that information to offer a better ticket experience for season ticket members who previously paid the same price regardless of the matchup or viability as a regular or preseason game.”[2]

The idea is as simple as capitalism: let the market pay what the market believes the tickets are worth, and let teams take advantage of such information.

[1] http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/bal/ticketing/seating_pricing.jsp
[2] http://www.detroitlions.com/news/article-1/Lions-implement-variable-ticket-pricing/bb55e1d8-2299-4eb0-b4f8-c9974ad0768d