On The Blue Jays/StubHub Expose

Put down the pitchforks, Blue Jays fans. The article this morning that appeared on CBC Sports and the Toronto Star “exposing” the Jays partnership with ticket re-seller StubHub is not the result of some earth-shattering scheme that the evil American corporate overlords have uniquely concocted and then covered up.

StubHub, as of February 2018, is the official re-sale partner of all 30 major league baseball teams. 28 of those franchises had signed exclusive re-sale deals with Stubhub prior to the Blue Jays, who did so in March of 2017. Don’t kid yourself, there is financial benefit to every single team that signs these deals. Whether it be through a percentage of sales or an annual lump sum fee, Stubhub is paying for the right to be branded as an official partner of each team, exposing them to millions of baseball fans.

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The use of “secret commission” in the Star piece is ridiculous, as if the Star thinks that the Jays official, well-documented relationship with Stubhub is supposed to carry no financial benefit. The Blue Jays are not unique in this situation. This is such a non-story yet it’s being received as a bombshell. The framing here is that the Blue Jays are working directly with ticket brokers, artificially inflating the cost of tickets on the secondary market. I have a few problems with that:

  1. Whether you like it or not, every team has large scale ticket brokers buying up tickets in order to benefit from the secondary market. As far as 2018 projects, the joke is on them as 37 of Toronto’s 81 home games carry a low price of under $10 USD (before fees). I’ve tracked these things over the last few years, and believe me when I say the prices will continue to drop, especially for mid-week games.
  2. The home opener is currently the ONLY game sold out this season on bluejays.com. You can buy tickets at face value for the remaining 80 home games right now. Up until last week when the home opener officially sold out, you could do so for all 81 home games! This means demand is not high, and you’re better off purchasing tickets on Stubhub than the box office, as it’s the best bang for your buck.
  3. The home opener every year carries a high price on the secondary market. Before the Jays ever partnered with Stubhub in 2017, it was still the highest priced game on their platform every year. The article states that the pricing on Stubhub is 205% higher than face value. NO KIDDING, it’s the highest demand Jays game of the year right now! Do people think this is unique to the Jays? Look across the street at the ACC, do you see how expensive Raptors and Leafs tickets are compared to face value? Do people think those teams don’t have ticket re-sale partners?
  4. I did a quick check on Stubhub of the cheapest AL East home opener ticket for each team. Here is how the division ranked as of 9:00am this morning (in USD):
  • Red Sox $62
  • Yankees $60
  • Orioles $45
  • Rays $40
  • Blue Jays $34

That’s right, the cheapest seat in the AL East for a home opener on StubHub belongs to your Toronto Blue Jays. Come Monday, your buy-in price on Stubhub for the White Sox series, including fees AND a $1.30 exchange rate, is ~$12.50 Canadian. The cheapest ticket available on bluejays.com is $15.00 + $8.25 in fees. So, after fees, the cheapest ticket you can EVER buy through the team this year online is $23.25, as the White Sox are considered the lowest tier on the Blue Jays dynamic pricing. I also believe this to be the reason the Jays would sell tickets directly through Stubhub (though I don’t believe that’s been substantiated by the “investigative reporters” yet). This would allow the Jays to offer fans tickets at BELOW box office pricing on another platform, while not alienating their season ticket holders by dropping single game tickets on their own site below what a season ticket/flex pack holder may be paying through the team.

Yes, ticket brokers suck, and at times screw good fans out of seeing their favourite team, but the Jays are finding ways to maximize revenue, and keep up with what literally every single major league baseball team does. As President of the team, Shapiro would be doing a terrible job if he wasn’t maximizing revenue from ticket sales * COUGH BEESTON/BROOKS COUGH *. Quite frankly, it’s ridiculous that it took the Jays until last March to secure a deal with Stubhub. I’d much rather a small percentage of each sale go back to the team opposed to 100% of profits going to eBay who owns StubHub. I care much more about the Blue Jays decision makers than I do eBay. Whether that money ends up going back to payroll is a whole different story, but for now, I do want revenue to be maximized so that the Jays can carry a payroll higher than they could back when they had no ticket partners and charged the same amount for all 81 home games.

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The funny thing about all of this is that it hasn’t been covered up. The partnership was announced last year, and Mark Shapiro himself in Shi’s sit down with him last week said that the team will “embrace” the secondary ticket market, but wanted to “clean that up to some extent.” Well, last year he approximated that 50% of 2017 season ticket holders were brokers, those who made significant commitments to 2017 season tickets in exchange for the rights to 2016 playoff tickets. The Blue Jays offered this in the summer of both 2015 and 2016, entitling future season ticket commitments to playoff tickets.

Again, this is common practice. But obviously, this was not available in 2017, and as a result, season ticket deposits plummeted. Given this, there are far less brokers with their hands on tickets this year than in the past two. They may have been opportunistic in scooping up opening day tickets to then re-sell, but it’s impossible to know how many opening day tickets on Stubhub came from brokers compared to fans who just wanted to sell in order to recoup a chunk of the cost of their ticket packages. I can’t blame anyone for doing this, and it’s what is great about Stubhub – it’s a super user friendly platform for selling your spare/unusable tickets without having to go the Craigslist “meet me at Tim Hortons” route. I’m a Seattle Seahawks season ticket holder and do the exact same thing with a handful of my tickets each year.

The Blue Jays are back! They’re a good team with a shot at the playoffs this year. People, choose to enjoy the ride opposed to excitedly dropping a deuce on this front office every opportunity that presents itself. The secondary market is a very real thing, and I’m glad the Shapiro “embraces” it.

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  • ice_hawk10

    there is an iffy ethical line this comes pretty close to though. Shapiro et al advertise tickets for $X, knowing that nearly half of them are going to be bought by scalpers/bots, so the real price of a ticket is much higher than listed, because a good chunk of game-goers don’t have access to the box office price, and then Rogers reaps the rewards anyways because they control the secondary market. currently it isn’t like that for the Jays because they aren’t that good and demand for tickets isn’t high, but if opening day happened everyday, or at least more often, you could see how the box office could be seen as just a front for Shapiro et al to advertise affordable tickets, when in reality prices are determined by a secondary market that they actually control as well.

    • brendonkuhn

      This is pretty universal, though. If teams sell out, demand on the secondary market goes up. The following year, the team reacts by increasing the per game pricing of their tickets. The Jays are charging more for tickets this year than ever before, which all fans have access to. They were woefully underpriced in 2015, so when they Jays became a powerhouse, they weren’t prepared to fend off brokers who saw a great opportunity. They’ve spent 2016-now slowly price correcting.

  • ErnieWhitt

    Just because something is well known doesn’t mean it is right. This is such a ludicrous apology. The premise is: as long as we agree that a thing that is wide spread can’t be challenged then there is no reason to challenge a thing. “Yes, ticket brokers suck, and at times screw good fans out of seeing their favourite team”. Just stop right there. You already said it. The fact that a but of extra revenue is generated for the team is a laughable reason to support current practice. Stubhub (and others like it) set up an extortion ring and you’re telling us to move on because the team we like is in on the action. Fuck that.

  • VK63

    Well written and accurate (unlike the Star piece which is an example of clueless at a toronto sports coverage level). also of note, that Stubhub data base of secondary market buyers is shared in the NFL deal and will soon be an open book for the Jays and MLB.
    Ticketing is all about being able to dynamically price in response to demand and gather fan data to build outreach algorithms to entice ancillary purchases. The Jays still use a fair measure of customization options on their ticketmaster platform and have not closed the loop ie: they still allow speculators to buy (and print) tickets in hopes that the teams play stimulates higher demand and thus gives the speculator the arbitrage opportunity that entices the exercise.

    The Vegas Golden Knights and a bunch of other teams do not allow a print at home option, its season tickets, or their app, exclusively.

    Im a fan of the gametime app. Have a bevvie or two at Real sports or The Pint and watch prices crater after first pitch. Then score a couple sweet seats and mosey on over.


    To the authors point. Nose bleeds listed for a loonie for the Sox series as…. they have to charge something. Fees are high on Gametime but that cost can be mitigated by delaying the gratification and buying at panic prices after the game starts.

  • Juana

    Blue Jays earn cut from every ticket scalped on StubHub, this is called a free and open marketplace. Tickets behind the home plate with a face value of $70-80 are selling for $15 for Tuesday’s game.How Fair is that? but have didn’t seen anyone complaining about that! Funny how that works (Thinking…)! I believe Etickets is really a good marketplce for buying tickets (whether it be tickets or any other good/commodity – https://www.etickets.ca/toronto-blue-jays-tickets/) will always benefit consumers. NOt a good journalism by the BJN here. Presenting a balanced view of both pros/cons of the secondary market would have been a much more helpful and appropriate read. This is just a populism junk piece i guess.