Barry Bonds’ recent pursuit of the all-time major league home run record swept like a wave through the Web site StubHub.com, which has helped take ticket scalping out of the grimy shadows and turn it into a hot Internet-based business.
As Bonds approached the record, the price of San Francisco Giants’ tickets offered at StubHub soared, because fans eager to see and perhaps catch the historic home run were willing to pay top dollar. But once the scandal-plagued left-fielder hit number 756 on Aug. 7, prices plummeted again. The Giants, after all, were still a last-place team, and that week they happened to be playing a couple of doormats from the East: Washington and Pittsburgh. . .
The home run chase, by chance, coincided with an announcement that StubHub will form a partnership with MLB.com, the major leagues’ official Web site, and serve as the exclusive authorized reseller of major league baseball tickets starting next year.
Both events demonstrate how far we’ve come from the days when fans and owners alike sneered at secondhand ticket sellers as somehow un-American. In response, legislators in dozens of states passed laws banning or regulating the practice. No one ever stopped to wonder how it was that both the buyer and the seller could be hurt by having these middlemen in the action. And the truth is, they weren’t.
In the long run, fans will almost certainly benefit from deregulation of the ticket market, and legislators across the country are starting to recognize that fact. New York repealed its anti-scalping law in June, and New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are considering taking the plunge. Selling secondhand tickets has always been legal in California, though privately held venues can and do regulate the practice on their premises.
StubHub, founded in 2000 by a pair of Stanford University grad students and sold to eBay earlier this year for $310 million in cash, is a big reason for that change in attitudes, and the company has capitalized on it. From its offices on two full floors of San Francisco’s gritty but trendy Mission District, the firm served as the online broker for about $400 million in ticket sales last year. Taking a service charge of 10 percent from every buyer and a 15 percent fee from the seller, StubHub netted $100 million on those sales.
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