If only this could have happened to the Seattle Supersonics. Fans of the old home team have had to watch in dismay as the now Oklahoma City Thunder have taken the season by storm and landed in the NBA Finals. And the story of the week is how ticket prices on the secondary market have blown up for the Thunder, even surpassing sales for premier team the Miami Heat, the Thunder’s opponent for the NBA Finals.
One major reason for this, according to a recent article on CNBC.com, is that OKC season ticket holders have held on to their tickets this season rather than sell them on the secondary market. There were four times fewer OKC tickets for sale on the secondary market this season than the average for the league.
Fewer available tickets mean higher prices. According to the CNBC article, this week saw a 100 to 350 dollar average difference on StubHub for the Thunder’s first two home games on June 12 and 14 (which the teams split 1–1) at Chesapeake Energy Arena as compared with Miami’s first two home games on June 17 (taken by the Heat) and June 19 at the American Airlines Arena.
Demand continues this week, though with Miami having home field advantage, it seems to be more about how close the series is than any other factor. “Really what we’re seeing,” StubHub Public Relations Coordinator Shannon Barbara recently told TicketNews, “is the spike in demand due to last night’s game (won by Miami). Most of the interest is in game five, because if the Heat wins on Tuesday, that will be the deal breaker.”
“Right now, the ticket prices are still high for the contingent games. The average for Game Six is $886 and just over $1200 for Game Seven (both at OKC).”
One possible determining factor has little to do with any excitement about the Thunder and their chances, though there is plenty of that.
According to a May article on CNBC, one-fifth Thunder owner and Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon has purchased a significant number of tickets throughout the entire season, potentially driving demand, and therefore prices, up.
Patrick Ryan, co-owner of Houston brokerage The Ticket Experience, explained to CNBC his view of the process: “It is that much more curious this year and last year to see [Oklahoma City Thunder] premium seats being valued so much on the secondary market.”
“Yes, teams can turn things around but not to the degree the Thunder have. It’s the fact that there is zero supply on the (secondary) market. I suspect that is because a large amount of inventory is being held by Chesapeake.”
Another factor may just be OKC’s history of selectivity with brokers. More than one broker has reported that, since the franchise’s 2008 relocation, the team has made it difficult for brokers to buy tickets for resale, leaving the bulk of the inventory instead to local fans and corporations.
A recent Miami Herald article seemed to support the “scarcity” argument, reporting that OKC tickets were much more difficult to find on the secondary market this season than were Heat tickets. However, Heat tickets went for an average of 25 dollars more than OKC tickets throughout the season, complicating any easy explanations related to McClendon buying up tickets, or any other demand-based explanation for that matter, as the reason for the current price hikes.
In fact, author Douglas Hanks wondered if low resale for OKC tickets may have been closely associated with fans just not seeing prices that they liked on the secondary market, and deciding instead to hang on to their tickets.
Broker Lena Siegendorf, VP of Florida’s PremiumSeatsUSA.com and local to the Heat’s fan base, saw the same process at work when she recently attended the Finals in Oklahoma. “We did notice that it is a ‘hotter’ ticket in Oklahoma,” Siegendorf recently told TicketNews. “The truth is, there is not a lot of inventory (of Oklahoma tickets) available, and the fact that there is so much in Miami tends to drive prices down.
“My gut tells me that there are not a lot of Oklahoma fans that are interested in resale.”
And like others, Siegendorf also sees action on the corporate side as contributing to OKC’s demand issues, with corporations owning a significant part of the team’s ticket inventory.
Meeting an Oklahoma fan at Game One of the series, Siegendorf learned that his company owned hundreds of Finals tickets and held a “strict no-resale policy”, as do many other corporations. Multiply this by hundreds of local companies, and one can see where much of the inventory likely sits.
Thus, due likely to a number of converging factors, including team policies changing demand as well as spontaneous fan excitement, the old Supersonics have found themselves a hot commodity in their new home of Oklahoma.
Last Updated on June 19, 2012