The New York Yankees made a move against ticket-resellers by announcing that they will only accept hard-stock paper tickets or mobile tickets for home games this season. Make no mistake, this is a shot at StubHub and SeatGeek as PDF tickets will no longer be an option. This makes it difficult to buy and sell tickets on the secondary market. If these companies want to continue being profitable, they need figure out a way to transfer mobile tickets before other teams and leagues follow the Yankees lead.
PDF format is the most simple way to transfer tickets. Post it on the secondary market, upload the PDF, and fans who purchase tickets on the secondary market can simply download their ticket. That won’t be the case anymore. It makes it more difficult for secondary ticket sellers because mobile tickets can’t be transferred easily and hard-stock tickets need to be sent in the mail or delivered via a meet-up. It’s still possible to sell tickets via StubHub or SeatGeek but it makes it much more difficult.
Some look at this as a nefarious move by the Yankees and Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster sets artificial price floors — usually face value — on secondary market tickets. This means even if a game ticket is going for $20 on StubHub, but the floor is set at $50 on Ticketmaster, fans may just have to pay the $50 for convenience sake. The Yankees have painted this as a way to combat counterfeiting, but it seems like a business move to benefit a partner.
The only way to fight this move is to somehow make it easy to transfer tickets via a mobile device. There are a lot of steps and security questions that make this extremely difficult to accomplish. However, it may be necessary if other teams and leagues follow suit. The entire point of the secondary market is to price out tickets at fair-value. If that isn’t possible because of ticket restrictions it really hurts the business.
Make no mistake there is a move towards mobile tickets as a whole. It allows the teams to keep track of fans It also creates a consumer profile in which teams can activate and market around the specific purchasing habits of the ticket holder. It’s useful and helps the team sell more merchandise and concessions. This doesn’t seem to be how the Yankees are explaining this decision. If mobile tickets become the norm, transfer via mobile must be the next step. The technology behind it isn’t here yet, but at some point it may be possible to text a ticket to the new buyer, email a code or create an app for transfer.
The Yankees may also have hurt themselves. People may not be willing to pay the extra amount Ticketmaster sets as a floor. If this happens and people stop coming to the venue because the $20 ticket is now $50 and not affordable it could lead to empty seats. That’s bad optics for any game on TV. The ticketing change could also hurt general attendance numbers which in-turn would hurt the Bronx Bombers in revenue generation at the venue. The Yankees Fan Cost Index (FCI) — which is compromised of the prices of four adult average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two least expensive, adult-size adjustable caps — is $357.20. Even if you take the tickets out of the equation that’s still a sizeable chunk of revenue they could be missing out on.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.