Barry Petchesky of Deadspin posted this morning about the New York Jets’ ticket woes. The team reportedly had 12,000 unsold tickets as of last Friday for tonight’s home game against the Houston Texans. And as Petchesky reports, based on data from SeatGeek.com’s Will Flaherty, the secondary market has downgraded the price of some seats to as little as $36.
The more notable thing is that the “secondary market” surveyed by Flaherty does not include data from the NFL’s official ticket resale website–because league policy prohibits anyone from selling tickets below face value on said website. Flaherty explained the disparity between the “official” and unofficial secondary markets:
For example, consider a side-by-side comparison of tickets available on the Jets TicketExchange site in Section 149. These lower level end zone seats have a face value of $125, and on the TicketExchange site, no tickets are permitted to be posted at a price below $125. But on external secondary market sites, tickets in Section 149 can be found for far, far less — for as little as $53 a piece!. In fact, we counted 59 Section 149 tickets listed across the 60 secondary market sites we track at prices below the $125 face value “floor” imposed on the Jets official ticket exchange.
The NFL would like to pretend there’s 100% demand for all games at a fixed minimum price. This would make demand inelastic, as Steve Young erroneously claimed recently. But as Flaherty demonstrated, demand is just as elastic for the NFL–that is, the non-zero-priced live attendance product–as it is for any other form of entertainment.
Indeed, the NFL’s infamous “blackout” rule is an attempt to re-write the law of supply and demand. It specifies a game must be sold out–with tickets selling for a minimum price–in order to air on local television. When games do not sell out, franchise operators may purchase their own tickets in order to maintain the illusion of 100% demand. And the NFL recently modified the definition of “sellout” to lift blackouts when there’s at least 85% demand.
The NFL’s problem is that it insists on building massive stadiums–subsidized by government intervention–to play just a handful of games each year. That creates unrealistic pressure to guarantee 100% demand, especially in markets where the home team isn’t particularly good or faces strong local competition from other forms of entertainment–both of which describe this year’s Jets. And unlike college football, where the supply of home games is more fluid because each team controls its own non-conference schedule, the NFL’s sense of parity requires each team get the same number of home games irrespective of consumer demand.
In theory, the NFL could live off its television revenue alone and give away live attendance tickets for nothing. But the franchise operators have so much invested–politically, if not financially–in stadiums that the league feels compelled to continue peddling the myth of 100% demand.