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Bengals, Colts, Packers All Sellout and Avoid Blackouts. But Why Was It So Hard For NFL Teams To Sellout This Weekend?

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Cincinnati Business Courier – The Cincinnati Bengals home wild card playoff game is officially a sellout, thanks toProcter & Gamble Co. The number of tickets the company purchased was not released. The tickets will be added to the complimentary tickets Kroger Co. is giving away this weekend to local military families. Cincinnati restaurateur Jeff Ruby said Thursday he’s buying 100 tickets that he’ll donate to the Armed Forces Ticket Association Cincinnati for military personnel to use. 

It’s been a strange week for the NFL leading up to the first round of playoff games this weekend with only one team selling out initially, and the three other matchups hoping to follow suit to avoid TV blackouts. The Eagles, who host the Saints Saturday night, sold out their home game in three minutes when tickets went on sale. The Colts (vs. Chiefs), Bengals (vs. Chargers), and Packers (vs. 49ers) didn’t share a similar fate. Fortunately, for the people of Cincinnati companies like P&G, Kroger Co., and Jeff Ruby stepped up to the plate and bought the remaining tickets to sellout the game. Kroger Co. is even gave away tickets this weekend to local military families free of charge with a valid military ID. Indianapolis shared a similar fortune of good luck when Meijer, another big grocery store chain, bought out the remaining 1,200 tickets today.  Green Bay was the final team to sellout their tickets for this weekend’s games, which was possibly the most surprising seeing as how Lambeau Field holds a sellout streak that spans over 50 years. It’s great news for fans (and a sigh of relief for the NFL front offices) that all teams were able to sellout their tickets and avoid blackouts, but the real question is how could sellouts even be in question, this is the playoffs after all?

In my opinion, the reason teams aren’t selling out their playoff games comes down to four reasons: money, confidence in team, the home experience vs. in-game experience, and most importantly secondary markets like StubHub. Money is always one of the first issues when it comes to tickets, and we all know that playoff tickets for any sport are going to come at a premium. It’s just a sign of the times that playing upwards of $150 a ticket for one game isn’t going to be feasible for everyone. Money is a pretty black-and-white issue, but a fan’s confidence in one’s team is totally different.

This isn’t a revolutionary thought, but the fandom spectrum can range from die-hard to mildly interested, and everything in between. So, when a team like the Packers let’s say, who won 8 games this season and barely made it into the playoffs on the last game of the season have a matchup against the 12-4 49ers, confidence can’t exactly be sky high for the home team’s fans. There will be the die-hards that will buy tickets as soon as they go on sale, and some fans who just don’t want to spend all that money on a game when their team isn’t favored. This can drastically effect ticket sales, but for a team like the Packers so can -30 degree wind chill.

Watching a game at home vs. in-game experience has been a hotly debated subject over the recent years due to the change in how fans can watch the game at home. Watching a game at home has never been better. From HDTV’s, instant replays, and the ability to change the channel on a whim, a viewer with even the shortest attention span can enjoy an entire NFL game from the comforts of their recliner. Attend the game and you mostly likely have a worst vantage point then the cameras of Fox and CBS, you can only watch replays on a jumbrotron, and if you don’t live in a warm weather climate you’ll have to deal with the elements (like the aforementioned Green Bay weather this weekend). Not to mention the price of tickets, parking, and travel that go into every game. It’s not a hard selling point for fans that want to stay home because they can save a boat load of money, get a better view of the game, and avoid frigid temperatures in the winter months. But if you did want to go to game the question of where to get tickets has gotten to a point of secondary market vs. primary box office.

It might be hard to believe, but before the times of StubHub and other secondary market sites people would actually have to physically go to ticket offices and purchase their tickets there. Think Blockbuster before we  had movies on-demand straight to our TVs and computers. Now, primary box offices have evolved somewhat to the point where you can purchase tickets online, but that doesn’t mean the experience is very user friendly. In fact, it’s specifically why people now-a-days choose sites like StubHub over those primary box offices sites. StubHub has done a great job of making their site a one-stop-shop that is so simple for anyone to point and click at any tickets they want depending on section, row, price, quantity, anything they can think of it’s there. Primary box offices have failed to innovate as such. For instance, for some sites a user is only able to put in the quantity of tickets they desire and they can only purchase the best available, without the ability to choose by section or anything.

This weekend the Bengals had 15,000 tickets available and 8,000 were on the secondary market. After checking later to see how ticket sales progressed it showed that StubHub had 2,000 left and 8,000 were still at the box office.  The growth of StubHub is killing the primary ticket market, which isn’t an insult to StubHub, rather it should be a wake up call to box offices. When people think about purchasing tickets the first thing they think of isn’t primary box offices anymore, it’s secondary sites. So, how can primary box offices survive? By either adapting or just having secondary sites sell for them. Time will tell, but the time for a change is already happening right in front of our eyes.

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