Until Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers had sold out 270 games in a row, but now the Los Angeles Clippers are the only resident of the Staples Center with an active sellout streak. Jesse Lawrence is the founder and CEO of Tiqiq, and he writes about the business and emotion of the ticket market for Forbes. He joined Bill Littlefield to discuss his findings.
BL: Jesse, you’ve found that fans will pay an average of $40 more for a Clippers home game against the Lakers than they will for a Lakers home game against the Clippers. The venue remains the same. What’s going on here?
JS: Well, that’s new this year, but I think it’s just Clippers fans are more enthusiastic about potentially beating the Lakers than Lakers fans, who for years and years had been top dog at the Staples Center, now are looking up at the Clippers. And why would you want to pay to see your team lose to their roommates?
JS: Crucially important. We actually did an analysis on teams in the top-10 average price this year on the secondary market … [that includes] the Knicks, the Heat, the Lakers, the Nets, the Bulls, the Thunder, the Clippers, the Rockets. Everyone of those teams has at least one identifiable star, if not two, if not three, in the case of the Heat. So I think the NBA’s always been a star-driven league and without that star draw, it’s a less compelling value proposition for consumers who are shelling out some real money to see teams play.
BL: The longest active sell-out streak in professional sports right now belongs to the Dallas Mavericks, but the team says their streak, which dates back to December 2001, might end on Monday. Is there just not enough star power in Dallas?
JS: I think that’s part of it. I think Dirk Nowitzki is still the face of the franchise. Last year was a mediocre season. This year is to be determined. I think fans just aren’t as excited about shelling out, again, real money and the ticket is just the point of entry. If the seat’s not full, someone’s not buying the extra $100 worth of stuff. And so in baseball, about half of the league dynamically prices, which mean they can fluctuate prices up and down, getting as many people into the seats as they possibly can.
I think these teams like the Mavericks that are, for the first time in 10 years, facing the reality of not filling every seat, every game, you know, are really starting to look at some of these alternatives as ways to tap into that secondary level of demand that they may not be hitting today.