Variable pricing could finally be coming to the NFL

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As the league faces the possibility of losing the ticket-selling leverage that comes from blacking out games, the NFL may finally be applying better business principles to the pricing of tickets.

Peter King of reports that variable ticket pricing may finally be coming to the NFL.

“I’d say as many as half the teams in the league are thinking about instituting it for 2014,” an unnamed team executive told King.

It’s a simple concept.  Instead of charging one set price for every game in the preseason and regular season, teams would charge more or less based on the perceived quality of the opponent.

The approach would be the natural and obvious alternative to Colts owner Jim Irsay’s view that one-price-fits-all ticketing strikes a balance between games of lower quality (like the preseason) and more intriguing contests, like Peyton Manning’s return to Indy.  Variable pricing reflects the realities of the secondary market, giving teams a bigger chunk of the money ultimately paid for the most attractive games on the schedule.

That’s the way the market for tickets should work.  Supply, demand.  Bigger games result in bigger prices, and crappy games result in more affordable costs.

The varying prices would be set before a giving season based on a team’s schedule (which is the only way to handle season-ticket sales), the prices for single-game tickets should rise and/or fall based on how much people are willing to pay — which will be based on how well the team is doing and/or the significance of a given game.

That’s how it works on the secondary market.  It’s also how it should work on the primary market.

35 responses to “Variable pricing could finally be coming to the NFL

  1. Baseball and hockey have been doing this for years, and you see a flavor of it in college football too (especially for teams that have 1 marquee home game and 3-4 clunkers). I don’t see a problem with it, except perhaps a “cheap” game may draw a different type of crowd.

  2. That format still bit bear perfect. Look at my Redskins, everyone thought they were gonna be a quality opponent. They’re trash.

  3. Forget about the secondary market, its standard for a lot of sports. You’re going to pay more for a UFC show headlined by Georges St. Pierre, than for a UFC show headlined by Demetrious Johnson. I think NFL is just playing catchup, but I don’t view it as a counter to scalping, its just basic entertainment event pricing.

  4. What they really mean is that preseason tickets will now cost $10 each and the rest of the games except those against the bottom barrel of the NFL(those will stay the same) will be going up. Which will result in an increase of ticket prices for the owners.

  5. Quality of the opponent? Shouldn’t the quality of the home team be considered as well? In that case I could see my Browns play a home game for like $10 if it was against a bad team (Jax this year for example)

  6. rascalmanny says:
    Dec 23, 2013 12:26 PM
    Get rid of PSL’s.


    Not going to happen, lots of people have paid money for those PSL, lets just do away with them an piss off the people who have been coming to NFL games for years.

  7. If it is set pre-season, how do you handle a team like the Falcons? The Saints game and the week 17 Carolina game would be priced like they would be top games of the year that mattered. When in reality, the only people who care(d) were Saints and Panther fans.
    I’d hope it is a wash for season ticket holders, some games go up, some down, but the total price is constant.
    But single game ticket buyers are going to be pissed if they buy an upper deck ticket in August only to see lower lever tickets going for less at game time because the team had injuries and stunk.

  8. How much will they be paying folks to go to Viking games?

    Well,probably 20 bucks, and then when the Bears and Pack comes to town,so will the big spenders. And of course the networks will chip in and make them prime time games. Face it..Bears/Packers are NFL royalty..where THEY go, ( Steelers,Cowboys also) $$$$$$$ follows

  9. How do they do it for season ticket holders? Still seems imperfect unless you set prices on weekly basis.

  10. So if your team has a really weak schedule with a bunch of bad teams, they’re really going to take less money overall? I don’t think so.

  11. The main advantage to being a season ticket holder and committing to pay for every game is the value you get for great matchups and playoffs. If you have to pay top dollar for good games even as a season ticket holder, then there’s no advantage to committing and paying for preseason and crappy games. Might as well just buy tickets for the games you want. Season ticket holder numbers will drop if this happens.

  12. So then do they offer a refund when you buy tickets to something like the Texans in August, who were predicted to be a Super Bowl contender, and they turn out to be in the running for the first overall pick? All this will do is outrage more fans, result in lower attendance, and besides why pay for overpriced tickets when I have the best seat in the house with my 60″ HDTV?

  13. What do you do if you’re a dump franchise like the Raiders or Bucs who have horrible teams? Do you really think your fans are going to pay more to see Peyton Manning for Cam Newton come to town?

  14. With the constant turnover of playoff participants, can you really decide who is going to win or suck before the season?

  15. “Variable pricing reflects the realities of the secondary market, giving teams a bigger chunk of the money ultimately paid for the most attractive games on the schedule.”

    I call BS on this. Teams have already been forcing ticket buyers to purchase the less attractive games at full price in order to buy the ticket to the more attractive game. As I tried to purchase a ticket in Arizona (as a non resident of the state) last year to see my Eagles, and was only able to purchase as part of a package with a Bears game.

    I live 7 hours away with a family of 4. Sure thing NFL….put me down for 8 full priced tickets. Of which, I’ll only be using 4.

    Game day ticketing is legalized extortion. Be it when you buy direct, through the “legal” secondary market, or from scalpers. I chose to stay away and be extorted by more important items like auto insurance, airline travel, gasoline, property taxes and the lottery.

  16. None of this means ticket prices will go down. Sure, the cost for preseason games might go down, but the rest of the games will stay the current price and better looking games or rivalry games will increase in price. It is just a good way to jack up the cost.

  17. If the Raiders were playing at the vikings this weekend, tickets would be free (and they could make money on concessions).

    Teams that have a large following, like the Packers and Steelers, would be paying premium dollars at every away game.

    It is then a short step to the big draw teams demanding their fair share of the revenue generated. The high revenue teams like the Cowboys and Packers would get a higher percentage of revenues and low revenue teams like Raiders and vikings would get a smaller percentage.

    Eventually you would have about 5 teams competing and most never having a shot at a championship, much like baseball.

    Struggling franchises like the vikings already force those buying Packer and Bear game tickets to purchase a preseason ticket. Otherwise no one would purchase their preseason tickets.

    It is a bad idea creating the slippery slope for the long term financial health of the league. It harms fans of successful teams in the short term.

  18. Sweet, so Lions tickets will come with a cash reward for when they rip the fans guts out with disappointment and kick your dog for good measure.

  19. This is nonsense. Under this plan, ticket prices will only go up, never down.

    Let me give you an example. Lets say the least expensive seat at Giant’s stadium this year was $100. For next year, that will be the starting price for a game with the worst opponent/draw. The games against excellent teams, the price of that ticket goes up. Don’t hold your breath that that ticket will ever be $50 or $75. Prices NEVER go down. This is just a scheme to charge more whenever they can get away with it.

  20. Variable pricing will make people think they got ripped off.

    Take the Seahawk’s schedule this year: Texans and Falcons were expected to be powerhouse contenders, while expectations where not high at all for the Panthers.

    If face value for the Texans and Falcons were considerably higher than face value for the Panthers, some ticket holders would be considerably pissed off.

  21. Attendance does not drive the NFL; it’s the TV contracts. Will TV stations be bidding on who is to televise the Browns or Redskins? Or, after the contracts for Seattle and Pittsburgh are established, will TV channels just pass on Washington or Houston?

    Or is this really the beginning to “pay-for-view” football games? After all, CBS would rather televise the Patriots vs Seattle, not be forced into hometown games every Sunday. Or will the premiere teams be on a “pay-for-view” channel, or Comcast’s “On Demand”.

    And how will we know in July or August which teams are “premiere” teams?

    Just like boxing. Pay to watch. This is the only way players will be able to get million-dollar contracts

  22. My guess is if you’re a season ticket holder and your 10 games total $1,000 now they’ll still total $1,000 with variable pricing. Your $100 preseason games will be $30 each but you’ll have a couple of games that are $170 so it’s a wash. The home team will still make more money when teams that travel well come to town and you won’t piss off your season ticket holders.

  23. I haven’t been to an NFL game since HDTV came out.

    Me either. I had no idea the NFL didn’t already do this. That UFC example posted above is perfect.

  24. Bad idea. Imagine the actual fallout of such a policy:

    1. If the team(and NFL by extension) admits that games against opponent A are more valuable than games against opponent B, players would have a legitimate reason to sue for more money for playing in high value games. While this might even out based on less money for low value games, does anybody really want the value of games being put before a judge/arbitor to decide what the value of each game is and do teams really want to take the chance that said judge/arbitor might rule for overall higher values on games in general thereby increasing player pay judicially?

    2.As noted above, fans who pay top dollar at the beginning of the season for a “supposed” quality opponent will be thoroghly pissed when that opponent turns out not to be quality and game day tickets sell for half the price.

    3. Coaches will absolutely HATE this decision. Why? Because coaches have the difficult task of getting players to treat EVERY game as a high priority game. Can you just imagine how a coach is going to implement that when the team office/NFL agrees that some games are more important than others?

    4. By designating some games(and by extension the team involved in that game) as valuable or not valuable, certain teams will be branded as low-value teams. This is a path to elite teams vs. “the rest”, based in NFL policy or lack thereof.

    5. If #4 is valid, than the obvious outcome, based on the 66%/34% revenue-sharing for home vs. visiting teams is that those teams deemed less valuable will earn less revenue from their 34% share of gate receipts. Less money means less stability for those teams. Does the NFL really want to go down a path that makes 8-10 teams less stable rather than the 3-4 we have now?

    6. Finally, does the NFL really want to take on the issue of inequality in ticket prices and teams at the same time that they obviously need to deal with the inequality of officiating in games? The optics will most definitely look like the NFL is trying to make dynasties out of some franchises at the expense of others.

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