Baseball Ticket Pricing

mariners-logoAndy, Tim and I went to a Mariners game this week. It was nice to have a guy’s night out. The end of the game was fantastic. Down by one run in the bottom of the night with a man on second, two outs and a 1-2 count, Martin hit a walk-off home run to win it. Too bad the stadium was almost empty. Part of our conversation was around why the Mariners don’t lower their ticket prices enough to fill the stadium.

Many clubs are doing some kind of dynamic pricing, but it mostly seems like a way to charge more money for in-demand games. That makes sense if you’re regularly selling out your stadium. The law of supply and demand says that you should increase prices if demand outpaces supply. But why not follow that same logic when the reverse is true?

I couldn’t find any satisfactory reason for why teams wouldn’t charge the amount that would fill the stadium for each game. In this world of big data, they should be able to set that price per game very accurately based on day of the week, opponent, number of wins in the season, weather, etc. How would they not benefit from having the stadium full even if they were giving away some tickets for free? The incremental cost of having another fan in the stadium is almost nothing, but there’s a good change they’ll end up buying a $9 Coors Light.

The only sticky point I can think of is that you have season ticket holders that prepay a set price for their seats. To get around that you can either provide them additional value (discounted merchandise, free parking, etc) that makes it worth their while to pay more for the seats than the person next to them or you can give them vouchers at the end of the year for discounts on next year’s season tickets.

Fill the stadium Mariners! I bet you can even find some data that shows a team plays better when the stadium is full so maybe it’s an easy way to get a few more wins each season.

There has to be some legal/contract reason why they can’t do this because there’s no way that the current system is generating the maximum amount of revenue.

P.S. This isn’t directly related to the topic, but I did run across an interesting paper about ticket pricing per team.