May 29, 2018

Season Tickets vs. StubHub? 2018 Report

This is the fourth of four posts I'm writing to wrap up the 2017-2018 NBA season and then I'm putting this thing on hold for the summer, or most of the summer anyway. Yes, I know the NBA season is still going on with the Finals about to start. It's just not going on for me. After a series of heightened expectations for the Wizards this season, the team historically underperformed and in the process revealed itself to be poorly constructed, complacent and with little freedom to improve without some creative moves that actually pay off, something that has been sorely lacking these past ten seasons or so. I'm tired of writing about this mess, so I'm taking some time off to detox.

Every year since 2014, I've written a blog post about the cost of Wizards tickets on the secondary market. This year is no exception. I believe it's important to track and report this data, especially considering the extreme hikes in season ticket prices that some of us have experienced over the past few years, including this one. The important thing for me to understand here is whether Wizards tickets on the open or secondary market can be had for less than what season ticket holders pay, which is supposed to be a discount over the market price, although the Wizards, and every other team out there, will advertise it as a discount over the gate price. The open market is more important.

First, let's re-set the conditions of this data gathering I do every year. I have two sets of season tickets for Wizards home games over at Capital One Arena, one pair in Section 109, Row E and one pair upstairs in Section 415, Row C. Both these seats are in what I call the corner sections, but which over the years the Wizards have gone back and forth on between corner and center. The focus of this exercise is to validate the price of my tickets. I know it's selfish but it's my damn blog, although in the process I assume this reporting is helping Wizards fans in general feel confident or not so confident about the price they pay for their tickets.

It's important to note a few things here. (1) The price of tickets on the secondary market is variable. The price of tickets rise and fall based on how the Wizards are performing, whether stars on the visiting team are injured, the night of the week, whether the Washington NFL franchise is playing and even when you decide to buy. There's a lot of unpredictability about this thing. My data was captured anywhere from a few days to a few weeks ahead of time for each game. I didn't shop for the highest or lowest prices; I just took what I found when I looked. I believe over time and having done this for years that this won't affect the big picture that much.

(2) Listed for sale doesn't mean sold. The fact that folks are pricing tickets at a certain price level doesn't mean they are selling at that price. Overall, I guess you could argue this may yield slightly higher results and thus make it seem that the secondary market appears more robust than it actually is. I don't share that opinion. If you want a ticket to go to a game, you are either going to pay the advertised price or not. In addition to tracking this stuff, I actually sell on the secondary market sometimes. I believe after doing that for several years, I have a fairly good nose for this stuff.

(3) Don't become a ticket reseller based on this post. The prices reported here for ticket sales do not reflect the money delivered to the seller. Remember that StubHub (which is the source of this pricing data) takes a cut as does every other secondary market seller. I don't want anyone out there buying season tickets and then getting annoyed because I said you can sell Wizards tickets at a profit. While the results reported here show that Wizards tickets are slightly more expensive overall on the secondary market, the margin is not enough for you to be profitable as a regular seller. Want to sell your Wizards vs. Warriors tickets? You can probably make some cash, if you believe that you are actually paying the same amount for each Wizards home game (news flash: you are not and some of your tickets are worth about nothing).

Over the prior four years I've done this, the price of season tickets has proven to be cheaper than the secondary market every single year. This year is no different. For trending purposes, I have found season tickets in the lower level to be 30% (2014), 48% (2015), 29% (2016) and 26% (2017) cheaper than those available on the resale market. For the 400 level, the trending has been slightly to significantly lower at 25% (2014), 46% (2015), 17% (2016) and 19% (2017) cheaper than on StubHub.

Here are this year's results:
  • Purchasing Section 109, Row E seats for the entire 2017-2018 season cost me $3,400. Purchasing approximately equivalent seats on StubHub would have cost me $4,681. Season tickets are 38% cheaper. It's worth noting that next year's seats in my location will cost $4,080, which about splits the difference between this year's costs and the resale market.
  • Purchasing Section 415, Row C seats for the entire 2017-2018 season cost me $1,530. Purchasing approximately equivalent seats on StubHub would have cost me $1,737. Season tickets are 14% cheaper. This is an extremely slim margin, lower than I've ever found. Next year, these tickets will go up to $1,700, essentially wiping out any discount over the secondary market. This is a hugely significant point!
As I have done in the past, I have included the cost of preseason tickets in the cost of my season tickets but not in the resale cost. These games are worthless yet the team continues make season ticket holders pay for them at half the cost of a regular game. It's disgraceful and shouldn't continue. There is no Earthly reason why season ticket holders should be made to fork over the cost of an additional 1.5 games (3 preseason games at half price) when they've spent a lot of money of 41 regular season games.

The results above make lower level season tickets seem like a bargain (they do not make upper deck seats seem like a bargain). But are they really? Just like in prior years, the average cost continues to be driven up by some marquee games. Want tickets to see the Wiz play Golden State? By my research you'll pay $345 for a seat similar to mine downstairs. Cleveland? $262 or $293 depending on whether you wanted to attend in November or December. This of course represents a significant dilemma for the season ticket holder who feels he (or she) is paying too much and wants to recoup some cash via resales. Yes, you can get a significant portion of your investment (please don't laugh at that word) by selling off your Warriors or Thunder tickets but then you also don't get to see those games in person.

On the flip side, if you wanted to go see a bunch of games at Capital One Arena below season ticket holder prices, you can. I have 15 games on my spreadsheet with resale prices below the average season ticket holder game cost, including getting in to games against Phoenix and Utah for less than $47. Remember, I'm paying $80 per. You could also quite easily have attended more than half the games this year in seats comparable to mine for less than $1,500 or less than $72 per contest. The story in this paragraph and the one prior are true every year and likely always will be.

Of course one of the biggest benefits of being a season ticket holder is the guarantee of the right to purchase playoff tickets at what (if the team makes it far enough) will eventually be a deep discount. Don't believe me? Check out the graphic at the top of this post for the (at the time I took the screenshot) then unavailable home game one in Houston for the NBA Finals. The pricing is, shall we say, robust. Of course it also won't happen since the Rockets lost Monday night to the Warriors. Still don't believe me? Check out the pic below showing Stanley Cup Finals tickets for a Capitals home game. Yes, I know folks are crazy about the Caps and there's a lot of years of playoff losses inflating those prices but they are still crazy high.

In playoff years, I typically track the secondary market values for postseason games also. This year, I did not because (a) I was pretty much checked out at this point and (b) I figured the Wizards weren't going far and I was right. I will say that if you intend or need to sell your playoff tickets that timing can be everything. People make emotional decisions during the playoffs. Game 6 tickets vs. Toronto might have sold well if they were available right after a game 4 win at home. Just saying...

If the risk / reward of skipping or attending the regular season game vs. the Golden State Warriors is a head scratcher for the average Wizards faithful, the playoffs represent a sort of double jeopardy. These tickets typically will represent a good resale potential (although not as much as marquee games against regular season opponents in some case; nowhere close actually) but these are the games that you want to attend. Going to the playoffs is why you buy in the first place. They are also the most expensive tickets you will ever buy from the team. Sorry for the no results this year on this one.

So that's my report for this season. I'm not the only one who writes about this stuff. You can get a little bit different take on this whole situation by reading WizKid's report on this whole situation. And in case you read that and end up feeling that he and I are in totally different spots, I'm not sure that's true. Ultimately the analysis of whether this purchase is worth it is a personal one. I can easily make the case as WizKid does that my season tickets are not worth it. After all, is beating your heart against a brick wall for 18 years with just one division title to show for it really worth it? We all have to make that decision for ourselves.

I will say in closing, though, that the math behind an upper deck season ticket purchase considering the price hikes next year really is to the point where it no longer works. The team has to stop raising these prices. Other than the playoff incentive (meaning first or second round exit given recent history) and a couple of other season ticket holder perks, the numbers don't really work at all here. I did renew my upper deck tickets next year; I don't think I will if the numbers are similar next season and there's another price hike.

No comments:

Post a Comment