SBD/September 23, 2016/Sports Facilities and Franchises

Teams, Leagues Still Trying To Find The Right Balance In Setting Ticket Prices

At the heart of all the numbers that teams, leagues and their partners are gathering is the goal of setting the right price in the marketplace, but it is not all about cold, hard facts. During a panel on analytics and pricing at the ’16 AXS Ticketing Symposium, Kelly Cheeseman, COO of AEG Sports and the NHL Kings, said he always has to consider that he is dealing with relationships between teams and fans that can stretch back for decades. “It’s a big challenge for us because there’s the human side of what we want to do for our core customers,” he said. “We really want to balance that human-side decision. We’ve got so many data points coming in, and we’ll get smarter with all of that, but the goal is to set it right from the get-go, and the core of it is that I have to pay for our players, which is very challenging.”

HAVING IT ALL
: Hornets Senior Dir of Business Intelligence Chris Zeppenfeld said that the availability of deep analytics makes it important to determine what is most important to a team when it comes to putting fans in seats. “I have to have that conversation with my ownership group about, ‘What do you want?’ ‘What is success to you?’” he said. “Does that mean it’s max revenue? Or is that max seats? Or is it some sort of blend of that? We had a game last year that was one of our highest-grossing games but was only about middle of the pack in terms of seats, versus another game that had our top two or three in terms of seats, but was only middle of the pack of revenue.” Moderator Abe Madkour asked, “What does your ownership say when you ask if they want max seats or max revenue?” Zeppenfeld smiled and said, “They always say both.”

GETTING IT RIGHT: Just having data, though, is not enough to ensure that it will lead to the right decisions. Kore Software VP/Product Strategy Russell Scibetti said, “At this point, everyone has embraced it to some degree. But there are still a lot of organizations that look at the numbers and go, ‘Yeah, that makes sense. I see how you came to that. But I’m still gonna do X.’ The nice thing is I think we actually do have most of the data that we need to make better pricing decisions. I don’t think there’s some big missing variable. Whether you have the staff or the time or the technology to help dig into it and come to those right decisions, it’s not for a lack of data.” Ticketmaster Senior VP and LiveAnalytics GM John Forese added, “The industry kind of beats itself up, but it has come a long way. It’s very hard to know if you’ve got the price right, even after the fact, because there are different objectives. Increasingly teams are realizing now that if I sold the last ticket right as the game started, then maybe I am priced perfectly. The place where I think the data is going to get much more powerful is not necessarily new data sources, but analyzing the data that we’ve collected.” That, of course, is the challenge. Zeppenfeld said that at one point last summer he was spending as much as 50% of his time working with his team to analyze and act on data. Cheeseman added: “We’ve got a lot of data. We want more, but there’s only so much we can do in a short time on the team side.”
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