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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Baseball charts new course on seating- latimes.com

A major fact that stands out to me in this article is that 40% of baseball tickets go unsold every season. That number seems staggering considering that each year fans' continue to shatter the attendance records.

Simple, 'one size fits all' ticket pricing has become a thing of the past as teams use the Internet and other avenues with an eye on increasing revenue. The Dodgers now sell 24 categories of seats

By Bill Shaikin, Times Staff Writer
March 27, 2007

It used to be so simple. Walk up to the ticket window at the ballpark, buy a box seat.

Ask for a box seat these days, and you get more options than voice mail. As seating charts evolve into color-coded mazes and teams charge an assortment of prices for the same seat, some box seats are more equal than others.

The Dodgers sell 24 categories of seats, 11 with "box" in the name, with box prices ranging from $20 to $100 a ticket.

"It is a bit confusing," said Joe Sciuto, a Dodgers fan and the principal at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks. "The box seats used to be the field level. Now you've got seats in the second deck being called box seats."

And you might pay more for your seat than the fan seated next to you. The Dodgers sell tickets in the field box section for $20, $30, $35, $37, $40 and $45, depending on whether you buy on game day, before game day or as part of a full-season, partial-season or group ticket package.

What's the ticket price? The Dodgers offer you 104 answers in all.

From Dodger Stadium to Angel Stadium and all across the major leagues, teams have scrapped traditional pricing structures and borrowed from airlines, hotels, theaters and college sports, dividing the ballpark into an ever-increasing number of sections and charging more, much more or a lot more for the seats in greatest demand.

"It's not all about making it easier for the consumer," said Dennis Howard of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "It's largely revenue-driven.

"If they can slice and dice their inventory and they can create rational price differentiation, you'll pay more. Teams are trying to create compelling reasons to justify charging more for tickets and driving the revenue engine."

In 1987, the Angels sold tickets for $8, $7, $5 and $3 and the Dodgers for $7, $6 and $4, with every seat on the same level at the same price.

"Whether you sat behind the backstop or you sat beyond the bases, it was one size fits all," said Robert Alvarado, the Angels' director of marketing and ticket sales. "There has been more pressure to increase revenues in creative ways."

It is no longer enough to charge more for a seat behind home plate than for one next to the foul pole. The latest round of slicing and dicing comes into full view this week, as baseball returns to Southern California with the annual Freeway Series exhibition games, at Dodger Stadium on Thursday and Friday and at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

In 2007, the Angels sell 23 categories of seats, with premium areas divided so finely that the first row sells for one price, the second row for another and the seventh row for yet another.

And, two decades after selling tickets for three prices, the Dodgers sell tickets for 83 prices, depending not only on where you sit but on when you buy your seat and whether you buy it for one game, some games or every game. If you want to take your group to the ballpark, the Dodgers offer another 21 prices, charging more for better seats and more popular games.

"You almost feel like someone is going to open up their jacket pocket and say, 'I've got a price for you,' " said Rich Sperber, a Dodgers fan and a vice president at an Anaheim home design company.

That's exactly right, teams say, so long as you substitute an authorized ticket seller for a shady-looking guy on the corner.

The best seats in the house seldom turn over, no matter how steep the annual price increase.
With the unintended help of such websites as StubHub and EBay, teams have learned that the market will support prices for premium seats that previously might have been considered unimaginably high.

"It's like real estate," Alvarado said. "They're in the high-rent district."

By dividing seats into so many categories, teams can define the ones in highest demand and attach stiff price hikes. But teams also can define the seats that do not sell so well and offer discounts or package deals to fans.

"If they're looking for value, I've got value," Alvarado said. "If they're looking for seat locations, I've got seat locations."

Said Marty Greenspun, the Dodgers' chief operating officer: "We're trying to offer multiple options for our fans."

No longer do you have to decide between buying the whole season or one game at a time. The Angels, for instance, sell a 27-game package in which you pick the games you want to see and a nine-game package with a more limited selection. The Dodgers sell packages for as few as four games and as many as 62.

Although the Angels and Dodgers each sold a record number of tickets last season, Howard said 40% of major league tickets go unsold every year.

Every unsold ticket also represents a lost opportunity to sell hot dogs, peanuts, beer and T-shirts.

By dividing the seating area into so many categories and analyzing demand for each one, teams can adjust prices to drive ticket sales.

The Chicago White Sox sell some seats at half-price on Mondays but slap a $4 surcharge on tickets for some summer weekends and a $14 surcharge when the Cubs come to play. The St. Louis Cardinals add $5, $10 or $20 to the ticket price on opening day, on Saturdays and for games against the Cubs.

The Colorado Rockies feature a $4 general-admission ticket, but the best seats jump from $47 to $75 when the New York Yankees visit Coors Field. The San Francisco Giants charge a base price Monday through Thursday, with increases ranging $4 to $9 on weekends and holidays and $10 to $20 for opening day and games against the Dodgers, Yankees and Oakland Athletics — except for a Dodgers series in chilly April.
And, thanks to the power of the Internet, teams can adjust prices even after the season starts, in much the same way airlines discount unsold seats at the last minute.

When the Dodgers realized they had a few too many seats left for midweek games against the Pittsburgh Pirates last September, they sent a half-price offer to fans who had registered their e-mail address with the team.

"It gives us much more flexibility to make unique offers, one-time offers, time-sensitive offers," Greenspun said.

With the Internet, he said, fans need not be confused or overwhelmed by so many choices at the ticket window. By clicking onto the Dodgers or Angels website, fans can study the numerous seating categories at their leisure, check the view from any section in the ballpark and print tickets at home.

The Angels sold almost half of their single-game tickets online last season, Alvarado said. The Dodgers sold one in three online, Greenspun said.

To further use the Internet to their money-making advantage, Alvarado said, league executives have encouraged teams to conduct online auctions for some premium seats.

For the Angels and Dodgers, that appears to be a pricing line they do not intend to cross any time soon. Greenspun said the Dodgers had "no plans to go that way in the near future," and Alvarado said the Angels would not disregard a listed price and open seats for bidding."

I feel it's the wrong message," he said. "It looks like we're just trying to get as much revenue as we can get. You're not sitting there trying to do a bait and switch on people."


Senate holds hearing on TV deal- MLB.com

By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With four days remaining in Major League Baseball's negotiating window, a U.S. Senate committee put increased pressure on the sport on Tuesday to find a way to offer its Extra Innings package to a broader audience served by cable providers.

If not, DirecTV, a satellite-only provider, will have exclusive rights to the package for seven years and a 20-percent stake in the Baseball Channel, which will be offered on its basic tier beginning in 2009. DirecTV has agreed to pay $700 million for that exclusivity.

Acceding to a request by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who chaired the session of the Senate Commerce Committee, Bob DuPuy, MLB's president and chief operating officer, agreed to set up a meeting with the cable providers -- iN DEMAND and EchoStar Satellite LLC -- before the agreement with DirecTV finalizes in time for Sunday night's season opener between the Mets and Cardinals in St. Louis.

"It's possible to get the best of both worlds here if there's a good-faith effort," Kerry said near the close of the two-hour hearing.

DuPuy, seated next to the heads of the cable providers and DirecTV at the witness table, nodded in agreement.

"We're willing to meet with them," DuPuy said.

In an interview after the session, DuPuy was clear that he didn't expect the negotiations to go beyond four days and into "extra innings."

"We can't," he said. "We have a contract."

Earlier in the proceedings, DuPuy told a thin panel of senators that baseball is well within its rights to sign an exclusive deal with DirecTV.

"There's nothing sinister, illegal, wrongful or frankly unusual about that form of business negotiation or results," DuPuy said. "This is not a matter of fans being unable to view MLB's out-of-market games. It's a matter of not being able to watch those games on a particular system."

The committee is the same one that began investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional and scholastic sports five years ago before baseball had a collectively bargained drug policy at the Major League level.

There was far more interest in that topic. Of the 23 senators who are members of the committee, only two were in attendance as the hearing began at about 10 a.m. ET: Kerry and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the vice chairman. Five other Senators joined in at one point or another, including four committee members. But near the end, only Kerry, the 2006 Democratic presidential nominee, and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) were left sitting at the horseshoe-shaped front table. Neither could correctly pronounce DuPuy's name.

Facing them at a rectangular table were DuPuy; Chase Carey, the chief executive of DirecTV; Rob Jacobson, the president of iN DEMAND; Carl Vogel, the president of EchoStar, and Stephen Ross, a professor at The Dickson School of Law.

Kerry has voiced the most vociferous opposition to MLB's deal with DirecTV and repeated his argument throughout the morning. He said that because MLB continues to enjoy an anti-trust exemption and that taxpayers have spent $3.7 billion on new ballparks in the past decade, baseball should be more responsive to its fan base.

"We're not here because anybody asked to intervene in a contract," Kerry said. "We're here because our constituents -- the people we represent -- leaped up at us. The economics of the deal has to be balanced by the broader public interest and have something truly seamless. I also believe that that's in the best interest of MLB, ultimately."

When MLB announced the seven-year deal on Feb. 28, DuPuy said that the cable providers had until the opening of the regular season to match DirecTV's offer "at consistent rates and carriage requirements." EchoStar and iN DEMAND had been providers of the Extra Innings package in the past.

The sides haven't met face-to-face since March 9, and neither provider has made an offer acceptable to MLB, which rejected a proposal from iN DEMAND last week.

Under questioning, DuPuy said that the Baseball Channel -- "which has been considered for 10 years," he said -- was the crux of the issue. Neither iN DEMAND nor EchoStar have been willing to match DirecTV's commitment to offer the channel to all of its 16 million subscribers by placing it on a basic tier.

In addition, neither cable provider has been willing to pay an across-the-board fee for the Extra Innings package, preferring to pay on a subscriber-by-subscriber basis only. In its exclusive deal, DirecTV is paying a flat fee regardless of how many of its customers subscribe to the Extra Innings package.

Kerry asked DuPuy if there was a chance of negotiating into next week, "three weeks if you can negotiate a fair deal," the Senator said.

"We've been trying to do that for nine months," DuPuy said. "That's why we've continued to leave the door open."

The committee hinted that Congress might have to step in and regulate the deal. MLB has enjoyed an exemption from the anti-trust laws governing interstate commerce since a Supreme Court decision in 1921 and Congress has often threatened to repeal it even though the high court has not.

"When folks around the country realize they can't watch games on television, there's going to be a tremendous reaction," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who's not a member of the committee but spoke at the hearing. "And when those fans react, Congress may react. And if Congress reacts you may be well-advised to act expediently."

Afterward, DuPuy said that MLB had been treated well by the panel.

"I think it was a fair and open discussion of our desire to launch a Baseball Channel and our desire to make as much product available to as many fans as possible," he said. "It was well received."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Spring Training 2007 - Hooters Girls and Drunk Fan

Well, right on cue, this fan probably in search of Arizona Diamondbacks Tickets decides to show these Hooters Girls and us just how snockered he really is! Here comes baseball!

Spring Training 2007 - Beer, Fan, Hooters Girls

I guess this is what it's all about -- Hooters Girls, Beer, and one rather snockered fan. Here comes baseball.

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