Major League Baseball has entered into a revenue-sharing agreement with StubHub, an online ticket resale marketplace now owned by eBay. Radio news program Marketplace had a brief story that was far too breezy in the introduction for my tastes:
Scott Jagow: In pro sports, ticket scalping is — let’s face it — part of the game. So much so that a lot of teams have set up Websites where fans can re-sell the seats they aren’t using.
The New York Times story was more accurate in the lede:
Major League Baseball once frowned on scalping, the resale of tickets among fans and sidewalk entrepreneurs. On Thursday, professional baseball will announce plans to get into the business.
Although here, too, the phrase “once frowned on scalping” is a little weak, as is suggested by this paragraph a little deeper into the Times article:
Last season, the New York Yankees revoked season tickets of fans who used StubHub, saying it violated the contract that the ticket holders had with the team. The Yankees even went so far as to ask its flagship radio station, WCBS, to turn down ads from StubHub, and security guards at Yankee Stadium regularly questioned fans arriving with StubHub envelopes.
Not to mention the pro-sports teams that have lobbied for anti-scalping laws, sued StubHub and other resellers, and called the cops to prevent fans from reselling tickets.
Various news stories characterize this deal in slightly different words, so I am not sure how MLB’s arrangement with StubHub is going to bump up against the arrangements that some baseball teams have with TicketMaster or other resellers. TicketMaster hasn’t been shy about going to court to sort things out, so I’m sure things will get cleared up eventually.
As has been argued on this site many times before, secondary ticket markets can be good for fans and for teams. Having a single “official” secondary market, too, can be a good thing for fans and teams: it will bring more buyers and sellers into one market, ensuring more efficient pricing, and can help protect buyers from fraud.
In this case it looks like StubHub isn’t trying to act like a monopolist (yet) – they’re proposing customer-friendly innovations like linking the resale market to team box offices so that tickets resold during the last 72 hours before a game can be picked up at the stadium. Let’s hope that the fan-service-orientation continues through the full five years of the deal.