Will Seahawks’ ‘recapture’ of 1,350 season tickets be good for fans? It depends

Courtesy of the SEATTLE TIMES:

If the Seahawks keep withholding the best seats and selling for marked-up prices, a recent ticket “recapture” will amount to little more than the team redirecting secondary market profits to itself at fans’ expense.

Inside sports business
The Seahawks last week announced via their website they’d “recaptured” about 1,350 season tickets from known resale brokers.

In other words, they took the tickets away. Naturally, much rejoicing ensued among segments of Seahawks fans viewing brokers with even more disdain than typically reserved for Tom Brady, Jim Harbaugh or Bill Leavy.

But their celebrations may be short-lived, especially going off recent history.

The last time the Seahawks took away broker tickets was a year ago, when they seized 4,000 under the guise of giving back to fans. And while some fans were indeed sold additional tickets at face-value prices, most wound up paying more on the secondary market than the previous season to see the team play.

The team actually took away 5,000 season tickets last year, but promptly sold 1,000 back to four designated brokers — Anthony Beyrouti, Roger Jones, James Kimmel and Mike Cummins — at marked-up prices. Each was given 250 season tickets for a $100,000 upfront fee plus the ensuing face value amount of each seat.

In other words, the Seahawks “scalped” the 1,000 seats for $400,000 beyond face value. And — talk about irony — they did it to “scalpers” themselves, although we now call them resale brokers due to the secondary ticket market being legal and no longer restricted to back alleys.

To dress the whole thing up, the Seahawks threw in some goodies and called the deals “sponsorship” packages. One broker said he was offered a couple of “worthless” radio ad spots and the opportunity to air one preseason television commercial if he paid for the production costs.

“Who’s going to pay to produce a commercial that only airs once during the preseason?’’ he asked.

He declined the TV ad and kept the seats.

Well, guess where most of this year’s 1,350 reclaimed tickets came from? Yep, the Seahawks have canceled those sponsorship arrangements with the four brokers and taken back most of those seats.

The question now is where those seats will wind up and how it will impact prices paid by Seahawks fans. A lot depends on whether most tickets actually go directly to fans, versus being resold to team partners or via online exchanges that mark up prices even higher.

A Seahawks spokesman said it’s too early to determine exact redistribution, though initially, the reclaimed seats will be used for season-ticket upgrades.

Of the other 4,000 tickets taken back last year, the team made 2,000 available to fans on the capped-out, 12,000-strong Blue Pride wait-list. So far, so good, except the team then took the remaining 2,000 tickets, many in better locations, and earmarked them for dynamic pricing sales via Ticketmaster. That’s where the price increases hit hard.

Let’s face it: Even the $400,000 extra the team charged the four brokers for 1,000 season tickets last year (totaling 10,000 tickets over 10 games) was only a 40 percent markup if each ticket averaged a $100 face value.

 Tickets listed on resale exchanges like StubHub or Vivid Seats routinely go for 100 percent and even 200 percent beyond face value. The markups the Seahawks charged for dynamic-priced seats on Ticketmaster often mirrored and even exceeded those resale exchanges.

Also, the Seahawks are one of several teams to partner with high-end sports travel company PrimeSport Inc. of Atlanta. PrimeSport has gained access to increasing stockpiles of tickets from the Seahawks and other team partners.

No one knows exactly how much Seahawks ticket inventory PrimeSport controls.

But computer snapshots from last May of a confidential broker-to-broker wholesale website, showing inventory for the Seahawks’ home opener against Chicago, had PrimeSport holding 392 of 1,518 tickets for sale that day.

That was more than anyone else, including two of the four then-Seahawks partner brokers, Beyrouti and Jones, whose companies, respectively, held 311 and 212 tickets being sold.

If the Seahawks repackage some of their 1,350 newly reclaimed season tickets in additional deals with PrimeSport, you can bet it will be for more than the 40 percent markup they charged the four brokers. And those costs will almost certainly be passed on to Seahawks fans buying PrimeSport seats via the secondary market.

Last fall, brokers in Miami complained the Dolphins pulled their tickets and gave them to PrimeSport. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has a small stake in PrimeSport — less than 2 percent — and brokers claimed he’d instructed the team to favor that company and not sell to them.

The brokers warned that concentrating more tickets in PrimeSport’s hands would cause prices to rise. Brokers here correctly predicted the same thing a year ago when the Seahawks began taking away their seats.

According to TiqIQ tracking of resale exchanges nationwide, the average Seahawks home ticket jumped 10 percent last season from $397.12 to $438.09 despite lesser opponents and the team’s slight decline.

It’s all about supply and demand.

The more seats controlled by fewer hands, the easier to inflate prices.

So, again, the impact of the team taking back tickets this time will depend on what happens to them. Fans will benefit if the Seahawks sell them the newly reclaimed seats at face value.

But fewer will benefit if the team keeps withholding the best seats and selling for marked up prices. If that happens, this latest “recapture” will amount to little more than the team redirecting secondary market profits to itself at fans’ expense.