SBJ/March 18-24, 2013/Facilities

For Cubs, dynamic pricing’s a one-way street

The Chicago Cubs will dynamically price all seats at Wrigley Field this season but have no intention of dropping single-game tickets below their original price.

The Cubs first tested dynamic pricing last year for 5,000 bleacher seats. For 2013, team officials have developed a new program covering the entire 41,210-seat ballpark and reduced all ticket prices by an average of 2 percent, including a 10 percent price reduction for the bleacher seats that were part of the test.

The Cubs lowered ticket prices but will raise them as supply tightens.
Photo: DAVID DUROCHIK
With pricing reduced, the Cubs will now dynamically price them higher during the season to generate revenue.

“We will use dynamic pricing to capture upside as inventory decreases,” said Colin Faulkner, the Cubs’ vice president of sales and partnerships. “Pricing only goes up. We were more conservative on pricing this year and would rather start out lower and go up than the other way around.”

The Cubs are not the first MLB team to put those restrictions on dynamic pricing, said Barry Kahn, CEO of Qcue, a software company that has dynamic pricing deals with sports franchises including the Cubs. Most teams tend to raise prices instead of reducing them, Kahn said.

The Cubs’ strategy, like that of other teams using dynamic pricing, is to provide an incentive for fans to buy tickets early to take advantage of the best prices available, Faulkner said. The team explains the process for savings tied to dynamic pricing on its website, Cubs.com.

“Buy Early and Save” has been the San Francisco Giants’ mantra since 2009, the year they became the first MLB team to use dynamic pricing, said Russ Stanley, the team’s managing vice president of ticket sales and services.

The Giants also use Qcue, a firm with 20 MLB clients, 14 of whom dynamically price all single-game seats at their ballparks, Kahn said. The Cubs’ tweaks to dynamic pricing are a natural progression as the business model evolves, he said.

The Giants dynamically price 10,000 to 12,000 individual tickets for every home game at AT&T Park, and 95 percent of the time prices start “creeping up instead of coming down” for those seats, Stanley said.

Unlike the Cubs, though, the Giants will drop prices on the fly for games against divisional opponents Arizona, Colorado and San Diego because they play multiple series against those NL West clubs. (Longtime rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers are not on that list.)

“When you are playing division rivals nine times a year at home, on a Monday night you have to be aggressive on the lower end,” Stanley said. “Plus, we’re not right every time. We may take a $10 [upper deck] ticket and raise it to $12 and it doesn’t sell, so we drop it to $8.”

It has worked well, considering the Giants have a consecutive sellout streak dating to Oct. 1, 2010.

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