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Volume 21 No. 2
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Dynamic pricing will make playoff debut

The Nashville Predators and Atlanta Hawks are two of the first big league teams to dynamically price playoff tickets.

Dynamic pricing adjusts single-game ticket prices as late as the day of the game through computer analysis of factors including team performance, opponent, weather, day of week and gate giveaways.

Both teams have arranged playoff deals with Qcue, an Austin, Texas, technology firm that works with about 20 teams and sports facilities to dynamically price tickets. The Hawks used Qcue’s system for the regular season and extended it for the playoffs.

The Predators’ deal is for the playoffs only. The NHL team is using the postseason as a test of dynamic pricing and has an option to extend its current agreement with Qcue for the 2011-12 season, said Sean Henry, the club’s president and chief operating officer.

Teams’ deals with Qcue typically involve revenue sharing, and that is the case in Nashville, confirmed Nat Harden, the Predators’ vice president of ticket sales.

The playoffs are a whole new world for dynamic pricing. NBA and NHL teams, unlike MLB and NFL clubs, control ticket prices for the playoffs and do not need league approval for dynamic pricing.

“It’s our first experience with the playoffs, too,” said Barry Kahn, Qcue’s founder and CEO. “The traditional hockey and basketball seasons are a long selling period. We have to adjust to a much shorter selling period. Things happen a lot quicker and change more frequently.”

In Nashville, the Predators started selling 4,000 single-game tickets April 2 for four potential first-round home games at Bridgestone Arena, a full week before the regular season ended and playoff matchups and game dates were set. To move the needle on ticket sales before dynamic pricing kicked in, the team initially priced those seats on average 8 percent less compared with last year’s playoffs, when Nashville lost to Chicago in the first round.

Starting today, with the playoffs set, the Predators have the ability to move prices up and down to meet demand. There will be a price floor to protect their season-ticket holders, Henry said.

Last year, the Preds fell 700 seats short of selling out their first playoff game before moving all tickets for their other two games.

In Atlanta, a traditionally lukewarm market for the playoffs, the Hawks do not expect dynamic pricing to have an impact in their first-round series against the Magic, said team President Bob Williams.

Digonex, a Qcue competitor, has dynamic pricing deals with NHL teams for the playoffs but company officials would not identify those clubs.