- Last Updated: 11:03 AM, April 24, 2012
- Posted: 12:43 AM, April 24, 2012
The Yankees and StubHub are having a spat about ticket prices, and it could lead to a divorce at the end of this season, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The marriage has been on the rocks for a while.
StubHub, the 12-year-old Internet site where “fans buy and sell tickets,” has been an official partner of Major League Baseball for the past five years, and ticketholders of all 30 teams use it as a convenient way to sell seats they don’t want.
But for the past few years, the cheapest unwanted Yankee tickets have been reselling on StubHub at just a few dollars apiece, and sources say the team isn’t happy.
For instance, right now there are 7,184 tickets listed on StubHub for next Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, with prices starting at just $3 — less than the price of a beer.
If fans went to the Stadium box office or to Yankees.com, the team’s official site, those seats would cost $15.20 apiece.
Worse for the team, there’s a direct link to StubHub on the Yankees’ website.
So a fan who clicks that StubHub link on Yankees.com will get to buy tickets for $3 apiece and not the higher official price.
Resale prices on StubHub for next Tuesday’s Baltimore game are even lower: some fans are willing to give up their $15 seats for just $2.88.
There are at least 8,318 seats priced below the box-office price for that game against Baltimore.
In fact, tickets on StubHub remain at prices the Yankees probably would consider too low until the Seattle Mariners come to town in mid-May. That’s when the Yankees also start giving things away as promotions during games.
But then StubHub’s lowest- priced tickets drop back down to the few-bucks level in early June when the Kansas City Royals come to town.
The contract with MLB ends after this season. And sources tell me the Yankees, the Los Angeles Angels and some other clubs would like StubHub to place a floor on ticket prices offered for sale on their site.
But that goes against StubHub’s philosophy of letting the marketplace set the price. “That’s absolutely the No. 1 issue (with the Yankees),” said one person familiar with the negotiations.
It’s very unlikely that StubHub, or its parent company, eBay, will go along with the idea of a price floor, since it contradicts the San Francisco-based firm’s entire business model.
It is still unclear whether the Yankees and the dissatisfied members of MLB’s lineup can break off from the teams that seem satisfied with StubHub and might want to renew the contract.
The Bronx Bombers could decide to set up their own secondary marketplace where fans can unload unwanted tickets.
The Mets’ website, while offering a ticket exchange, doesn’t appear to have any StubHub branding.
In the NBA, some clubs run their own ticket exchange and some have deals with StubHub.
Or the Yankees could opt for a deal with a service like Ticketmaster, which has a deal with the NFL.
StubHub does have ticketing deals with some football teams.
The Yankees and StubHub have a bit of a history. In 2006, prior to the MLB deal with the ticket reseller, the Yanks moved to revoke the season tickets of fans who sold their unused tickets to StubHub.
If the Yankees go it alone, the terms of the new contract could be more rigorous on pricing.
But even if that happens, there is nothing that will prevent Yankees fans from selling tickets on their own through StubHub, or eBay, which sells a wide variety of goods and services.
It just might become a bit more cumbersome for fans looking to purchase resold tickets from the exchange as they might have to visit two sites.
The Yankees, of course, could encounter some annoyance from season ticketholders who bought their tickets at the regular price and feel they have the right to sell them for whatever they want.
Yankees President Randy Levine confirmed to me that the team is looking at other options for secondary market sales and that it is trying to determine if re-upping with StubHub makes sense.
StubHub wouldn’t comment about the MLB deal.
The Yankees have been trying to weigh fans’ opinions on the matter.
The club recently sent out a survey to lapsed season ticketholders that asked several StubHub-related questions.
Question 36, for instance, asked: “What is the biggest reason you decided not to renew your Yankees ticket license plan?”
Of the 11 possible responses, the fifth choice was “It is cheaper and more convenient to buy tickets through websites such as StubHub.”
The next question: “What is your second biggest reason?” One choice is “I cannot sell my tickets for what I paid for them.”
This is a classic matchup: a traditional powerhouse baseball team that is trying to protect its profits versus an Internet expansion team that has rewritten the rules.
This really is Money Ball.