Friday, August 26, 2011

Devils switch to tiered pricing for home games

In the last few years, ticket buying and ticket selling has changed dramatically with the boom of the secondary market and more and more teams responding to that by going to tiered pricing. What tiered pricing is, in a nutshell, is when a ticket for the same seat is priced differently depending on the game. Rivalry and weekend games, as well as special promotions (say, Retro Night for the Devils) are more likely to sell out than mid-week games against a second-division team from the other conference. Quite frankly, teams like the Devils that don't sell out every game need a system like this to help maximize profits on the marquee games and sure enough, a few days ago they announced they were implementing such a system for the first time.

Considering the Devils have seventeen different price sections(!) I'm going to explain it as simply as possible by using the sections I know best - the Brown which is the extreme upper corners, the Green which is the rest of the upper bowl and the Aqua which I'm sitting in now in the mezzanine. Each team has 44 home games in a year, including three preseason games. Of the 41 regular-season games, ten now fall into the Premier Game category, which include all three Ranger and Flyer games, two Penguin games (all the Flyer and Penguin games are on weekends including Retro Night) and also a game against the Caps just before Christmas and a weekend afternoon game against the Habs earlier in December. Premier games will get price hikes. In the Green section, last year's single-game and season ticket costs were $37 and $30, respectively. Now they're $45 and $41 for those ten games.

For the twenty-one classic games, they're basically priced the same single game and season ticket prices that they were last year, except in the Brown section which saw significant overall increases on single-game tickets since that's no longer a $10 ticket section. While the Devils claim (via Facebook) they will still have $10 gameday tickets, the details are still unknown as to how, how many or where. On their chart, they now list the Brown section - which didn't have very many tickets available anyway - as $35 for the Premier games, $27 for Classic and $20 for the last category, so those tickets will be available to the general public before the day of game.

And the remaining ten regular season games as well as the three preseason contests fall into the '30th Anniversary Special' column. Those games will in fact be worth less than they were last year, and considering neither the Devils nor sth's trying to sell these games were able to get anywhere close to face value for these type of games (all of the regular season games here are Monday-Thursday) this was a neccesary change imo. As was the wide margin between gameday prices and sth prices. Amazingly, my new seats in the Aqua section are priced $52 at the box office but they only cost $12 to the season ticket holder.

Over the last few days on various message boards, I've read so many misconceptions about this new system among Devil fans it's mind-boggling. Refuting point by point:

1) We (single-ticket purchasers) are being priced out of the building with all of these increases! No you're not...the price went up for exactly ten games, and down for ten games as well. For three-quarters of home games, the prices either stayed flat or went down for day of game purchasers. If you're being priced out of the building because you purchased only the best games at box office price or in a partial plan, well that just proves the Devils' point that those games are valued more and more people want them. If you think the Devils are overcharging for these games, take a look at StubHub or TicketExchange for these games, prices will still be way above what the Devils are charging. As one poster on NJDevs summed up succinctly 'If the Devils don't price games this way, the secondary market will do it for them'. There will still be a secondary market if you don't want to pay the Devils' prices for games, and likely you'll be able to get tickets there at comparable or lower values to face for half the games.

2) It's not fair that some games are worth more than others! How is it not fair when you see tiered pricing in all walks of life? You think it's an accident that plane trips and hotel rooms cost more over the holidays? Or that a meal in a fancy restaurant in Manhattan costs ten times as much as the same dish would in a dinky small-town restaurant? It's quite frankly good business and to be honest, the Devils did this fairer than most teams would. They didn't hide a total ticket price increase in a readjustment of the prices, season ticket holders didn't get their invoices upped and day of game purchasers got discounts on 1/4 of the games from last year and flat prices for half of them.

3) This is the silliest one yet, that somehow season ticket holders still paid the same price for every game, so the value of the ticket didn't change at all. On an average that's true, since the Devils structured their prices in a way where it's really not any different than paying the 'Classic' price for all 41 games. My tickets in the Aqua section were $22 per game, but now only half the seats are actually valued at that - but the total still comes out to exactly $22 a game if you factor in my ten Premier games at $35 and thirteen (including preseason) Special games at $12. Psychologically it feels better to waste only $12 on preseason games as opposed to the $22 average and makes it easier to resell the non-essential regular season games at close to cost. It doesn't matter too much what the Premier prices are, since I'm either going to those games anyway or will still be able to resell them at a profit or face at worst if I have to.

4) As far as eliminating or redistributing the $10 tickets go, I admit I could care less about doing away with the $10 line since I never really had a need for it. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for having a set amount of affordable tickets for college students and younger fans and am glad the Devils are apparently keeping some $10 seats available. However, from what I've heard in a secondhand fashion about the $10 line, it seemed like it was more trouble than it was worth - especially for the limited number (between 100 and 200) of tickets available. Both because you literally had to stand outside for hours to get tickets to a regular season game and because the line itself wasn't well-policed and there was rampant cutting and 'saving spaces' involved, particularly for the bigger games. If anything, the Devils and the fans would be better off just having an online lottery or some other way of selling $10 tickets that didn't involve chicanery. Maybe make that an extension of College Night where if you have a college ID you could purchase those tickets to any game on the day of the game.

5) The Devils took care of people that were able to give them a couple grand up front (i.e. season ticket holders) but took a dump on the little people. While I've already explained the fallacy of the latter, the fact is season ticket holders DESERVE special consideration. We're not all born with silver spoons. Honestly, it's good business to take care of your most loyal customers. I've been all over the Devils in recent years as the value of the sth anywhere outside of the Brown section - which is still $15 on average for season ticket holders, with a tiered system of $20-15-11 - had been devalued significantly.

Between the $10 line, a boatload of team discounts/ticket giveaways, the secondary market devaluing sales of tickets that were $30 and up face value and having to pay normal price for preseason games, the market had tilted heavily towards getting tickets on the secondary market and waiting for discounts to get a better price than season ticket holders got. How was that fair exactly?! I can't say how many times I've heard my fellow sth's in the green section complain that there were discounts for even special games while they got left holding the bag paying more for their ticket.

However, lowering the prices for preseason and the least desirable regular season games help the sth significantly in reselling them. True, the Devils take a chunk out of your profit if you were looking to unload the premier games but real season ticket holders as opposed to broker wannabes will want to go to most of those games anyway. Not to mention giving season ticket holders the ability to purchase any game at sth cost at any time throughout the season helps both the sth and fans who may not have the means to become an sth but want cheap tickets in the building. If you want to get tickets for the best games or really inexpensive tickets for the non-marquee ones, I suggest that non-STH's buddy up with an STH real fast lol.

That kind of arrangement helps the Devils too, as they're able to pawn off additional tickets that are not going to sell at face and get some money out of it. Every ticket in the upper deck and behind the net in the mezzanine section is $21 and below for season ticket holders to the Special games, there are still affordable seats. If after all this you still think pricing is unfair, talk to my fellow Ranger fan blogger about their pricing. We don't have it that bad, folks.


Derek Felix said...

This is quite good. And yes, I definitely think the Devils did the right thing here. lol come on with Dolan. Did you see the Sabres renamed their arena First Niagara Center?!?!?!?! Wtf is that all about?

Hasan said...

I've already seen it referred to as the F'n Center. Doesn't quite roll off the tongue as much as the FU Center in Philly did, if ever a nickname fit an arena...

At least the Prudential Center and the Rock sounds normal.

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