As of now, there are two primary legal ways to get a ticket to an NBA game: buying directly from the team box office and purchasing on a secondary market site such as StubHub. (Other options exist, like dealing with scalpers or pestering a friend until he gives you a spare, but let's forget those for now.) While the second option is not as official as the first, it can also result in some bargains and act as a saving grace for sold-out shows. It's an effective system, in part because it doesn't always have to play by league-mandated rules.
It's been so successful in fact, that the NBA has its own plans to start an online ticket marketplace. As Darren Rovell reports at ESPN.com, the league has partnered with Ticketmaster to create a new website (via PBT):
The NBA announced an aggressive move in the ticket landscape Monday, joining forces with Ticketmaster to create the sports world's first website that will list tickets for games sold by both teams and fans. [...]
The new yet unnamed one-stop-shop ticketing site is scheduled to debut in October.
The website not only seeks to take business back from secondary StubHub -- which became the leader in the marketplace thanks in part to fans going to the eBay-owned site by default -- but also seeks to make NBA teams smarter about their initial pricing.
"This is 'Moneyball' for the fans in terms of ticketing," Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard said. "Teams have used sophisticated data to evaluate players. Now it's time for teams to use sophisticated data to evaluate fans instead of just going with the gut. It's time for teams to get data and do what Procter & Gamble and GE does with that data: find the best product for the consumer at the right price in the best distribution channel possible."
The idea here is to help the consumer, and in many ways this new site will do that. However, it's also a very good way for teams (or businesses, really, as the comparisons to P&G and GE indicate) to streamline their operations, nab a lost share of the ticket market, and boost their profits. Plus, official NBA involvement — along with the lack of fraud that guarantees — should help build some business.
Of course, something in a business' interests can also be in the interests of their customers, and this could be one of those situations. StubHub is popular, but it can sometimes be difficult to compare its available tickets to others on the market. If the new NBA/Ticketmaster site is able to pool various types of available tickets and even changes direct-sale ticket prices based on secondary market availability, then we could see a truly dynamic kind of ticket pricing for sports. Fans will know that they're seeing an accurate representation of available tickets, and teams will be able to set those prices in a way that reflects demand. Everyone involved gets something they want.
However, that scenario is an ideal, and it's very likely that the first version of this website will be lacking in many ways. The key will be for everyone involved to take the ethos of dynamic pricing to its logical extension — to improve over time, no matter if developments are unexpected or all too predictable.
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