What Does the NFL’s Ticketing “Open Market” Mean for Consumers What Does the NFL’s Ticketing “Open Market” Mean for Consumers
by Brian Berry, Special to TicketNews When the NFL announced this past month it was renewing its Ticketmaster agreement this news came with a... What Does the NFL’s Ticketing “Open Market” Mean for Consumers

by Brian Berry, Special to TicketNews

When the NFL announced this past month it was renewing its Ticketmaster agreement this news came with a twist as it relates to the secondary market and NFL ticket resale starting in 2018. The NFL stated that an open market will be the way in 2018 instead of its previously closed, Ticketmaster NFL Ticket Exchange. This hopefully is what it sounds like, because when it comes to purchased tickets, the secondary market is best when unencumbered and open, where there are many choices for consumers.

For the sake of fans and consumers who purchase tickets with their hard-earned money and pay all of the extra fees, we hope this really does end past restrictive practices. But like all things ticketing, we will need to watch closely, as the NFL didn’t come to this conclusion on its own. A settlement with State Attorneys General last year is the reason for this. Officials stepped in to protect consumers and the consumer market because intervention was needed.

The 2016 State Attorneys General Settlement Agreement prohibits the NFL from directing or requiring ticketing practices among teams that are designed to preclude fans from using competing exchanges.

The NFL appears to be complying with the directive from multiple state Attorneys General. This is good news!

The NFL has entered into a five year extended agreement with Ticketmaster as the League’s primary ticketing agent, and Ticketmaster will still operate its Ticketmaster NFL Ticket Exchange, a resale platform. But instead of being the only show in town, the Ticketmaster NFL Ticket Exchange will be one of many places where fans can buy tickets on the secondary market, meaning the NFL and Ticketmaster will compete against others for resale business. Maybe this will lead to reduced fees? Until the Attorneys General stepped in, some ticketholders reported that teams and Ticketmaster would threaten to cancel their purchased tickets if they resold their tickets outside of Ticketmaster’s walled garden and its terms, which included price floors (minimum resale prices that neglected actual market value) and additional resale fees. You bought the ticket, it’s yours to do with it as you wish!

A truly open and fair system for NFL tickets would work like this…

  1. Individual and season tickets go on sale. They are purchased through the team or Ticketmaster (since Ticketmaster has been selected by the NFL as its primary agent). Ticketholders are given a choice (as some state laws require) of digital, paper, or PDF tickets.
  2. If a ticketholder decides to resell their tickets, they can do so on their own terms. They can sell it as they wish, using an online marketplace or a professional reseller, and they can set the price they are willing to accept.
  3. Purchasers shop around, find tickets they want at a price they are willing to pay, the transaction is safe and fair (no hidden or unreasonable fees), and they receive their tickets – hard copy, digital, print-at-home PDFs, etc.

But, as ticketing is big business and the primary market hasn’t always been honest and fair (which is why state Attorneys General had to step in last year), despite what they say in press releases about putting consumers first, we need to be vigilant. We need to be on the lookout for abusive practices like teams or Ticketmaster cancelling tickets because they are being resold, or making it difficult to acquire paper or PDF tickets instead of digital versions. And we need to watch online resale marketplaces too, to ensure they don’t charge unfair or excessive fees for reselling NFL tickets on its platform, which will only drive prices up.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about data sharing. Ticketmaster and StubHub have apparently agreed to share data on purchases, transfers, and more. We need to watch to ensure this sharing of data doesn’t result in marketplace abuse.

For now, we are very pleased about this open resale market in 2018 – the way the supply & demand secondary market for tickets should function. We are hopeful at Protect Ticket Rights, and we will watch closely to ensure your ticket rights are protected!