Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why Are Baseball Seats Filled So Unevenly?

CC photo courtesy of ttarasiuk on Flickr.

I often see scenes similar to the above photo at Nationals Park.

Notice the lower sections of seats, closest to the field. The ones to the left and center are nearly full, followed by two sections that are nearly empty, followed by sections to the right that are nearly full.

This is puzzling at first, but it makes perfect sense once you consult the seating and pricing guide. The seats in the far right of the photo are the pink seats in the guide. They are $10 cheaper than the seats next to them in the mostly empty sections, which are at the cutoff of the higher pricing zone.

The tradeoffs of seat pricing zones are intriguing. One extreme is general admission, where everyone pays the same price. On the other extreme, Nationals Park and other sports stadiums probably have the highest number of pricing zones of any event where tickets are sold, yet there are still numerous instances where seats that are mere feet from each other cost substantially different prices.

The advantage of pricing zones is obvious: a seat right behind home plate shouldn't be the same price as a seat in the nosebleeds. So why aren't there hundreds of price zones, instead of dozens? Transactions costs would be way too high. Or, in non-economist speak: it would be too much of a hassle.


Millsy said...

Interestingly, the price of the guy sitting in the seat next to you in the same section may be different than what you got. Pro teams are getting more and more efficient at doing this, and from the data I've seen, the variation in ticket prices from sales reps, despite face value, are pretty staggering. It's even more so when you take into account PSLs...and now they're selling playoff tickets in a market for the statistically challenged (you can 'buy rights' to your team's World Series tickets in 2015...then you still have to spend face value on them)

Sports teams are approaching airlines in their dynamic pricing abilities for both product differentiation (see the Yankees front row and "free" bottles of champagne) and price discrimination (why you paid $40 more than the guy sitting right next to you).

Greg Finley said...

I remember seeing that personal seat license thing. Yahoo Sports did a screenshot of the Pittsburgh Pirates one--I found that pretty amusing.

I did know of a service called Yoonew, where you can buy the rights to Super Bowl tickets if your team makes it. I guess it's people who have Super Bowl tickets and then sell the rights to them to all the NFC teams or something. Looks like Yoonew has fallen off the face of the Earth, as the Web site doesn't work.