Baseball tries to drive people back to the box office

From the sound of things, it’s only a matter of time before the Minnesota Timberwolves’ scheme to control the reseller market for tickets reaches baseball.

In its look at the business of baseball days before the start of another season, CNBC today notes that the New York Yankees are no longer going to accept print-at-home tickets, requiring either the use of a ticket on a smartphone, or a traditional paper ticket.

The Yankees aren’t alone. The American League’s runner-up for most-evil franchise is also taking steps to curb the upstart resellers, who often sell tickets for less than the face value.

The Yankees say the change is to fight against the increase in counterfeit tickets, but it also makes it increasingly challenging to buy from secondary markets like StubHub and TiqIQ where fans traditionally use the print-at-home option. As a result, fans will land at the Yankees Ticket Exchange, a site run for the Yankees directly by Ticketmaster.

“It’s interesting, because it really forces fans to interact more with the Yankees ecosystem,” said Jesse Lawrence, CEO of TiqIQ. “We don’t make nearly as much money when we sell a primary ticket as we do a secondary ticket.”

Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox are taking control of their online ticket resale market as well. A new service, Red Sox Replay, will allow buyers and sellers to transfer tickets digitally, eliminating the need for printing out tickets. “The Red Sox are owning the secondary market, which is meaningful, because they have the second-most expensive tickets on the market,” said Lawrence.

On whether these changes are a good or bad thing for the consumer, fans will have to wait and see, but Lawrence said it will give consumers more options and could have an impact on pricing. “What I think happens, is the overall pricing goes down because there is access to more inventory,” he said.

As we pointed out some months ago, that only works if a team is doing well and there’s a demand for tickets and a corresponding increase in a team’s “value pricing” system.

A couple of years ago, Forbes revealed that baseball teams are trying to drive people back to the box office by limiting the supply of tickets on the secondary market.

Over the last 10 years, the Secondary ticket market has become the defacto buying channel for concert tickets as well as sporting tickets. No other market has been impacted as significantly by the secondary market as MLB tickets. With the need to sell almost 100 million tickets each summer, baseball teams are burdened with the task of filling their stadiums with the equivalent of one-third of the country’s population every year. With all that available inventory, fans have been conditioned to not even think about checking the box office–once the only place to buy tickets. Instead, fans have been trained to find one of the hundreds of websites out there that are doing their best to get fans the cheapest ticket possible. That ticket is often being sold by a broker, who may be a season ticket holder and willing to lose money on 80% of the games with low demand in hopes that his investment makes it to the playoffs where the real money can be made. As a result, teams don’t actually know who their real fans are since those fans don’t actually have to interact with the team to get into the stadium. By limiting the supply of inventory, teams are hoping to reverse that trend and drive fans back to the box office. Once there, teams can reestablish the connection and begin to disintermediate the disintermediators.

The average price of a baseball ticket this year is $81, according to CNBC.

Related: Take Me Out To The Ballgame: Finding Respite In America’s Pastime (WBUR)