By Kavitha A. Davidson
The New York Yankees have a new ticket policy: The team will no longer accept electronically delivered, print-at-home tickets for entry into the stadium. Instead, fans must opt for either hard-stock paper tickets or mobile-phone tickets, somewhat confusingly called “etickets.” This has raised questions about Yankee Stadium attendance, the secondary ticket market, and even the very nature of the relationship between the team and their fans.
The Yankees announced the new policy last week, after which both team president Randy Levine and chief operating officer Lonn Trost told me over the phone that fans had been clamoring for a way to access their tickets on their smartphones. This makes sense; it always seemed rather provincial that the Yankees hadn’t caught up to the other teams that had this feature, including the Red Sox and Mets.
The concurrent move to get rid of print-at-home tickets, however, has raised more than a few eyebrows. The Yankees say the shift is meant to “combat fraud and counterfeiting of tickets.” True, with copy machines, scanners and Photoshop, it’s certainly not hard to fake a batch of game tickets. According to Levine, this fraud is enabled by third-party ticket resellers like StubHub, with which the Yankees have an agreement to honor fake tickets when possible. When that happens, StubHub must pay the team a penalty. Levine says that last season, the Yankees honored on average five to six fraudulent tickets per game, bringing StubHub’s fees for the season to more than $100,000.
Still, many critics contend that the Yankees got rid of print-at-home in part because of their sustained battle with StubHub (owned by eBay since 2007). In the trenches with the team is Ticketmaster, which operates the Yankees’ official ticket site and their resale marketplace, Yankees Ticket Exchange. Most of the league uses StubHub, which is also an official partner of MLB Advanced Media. (Among the teams who have opted out of the deal are the Yankees, Cubs, Angels and most recently, the Red Sox, who are developing their own, in-house ticket reseller with MLB’s media arm.)
This matters to fans because StubHub sets the minimum listing price for MLB games at just $6. But Yankees Ticket Exchange sets an artificial price floor that is dynamic, meaning it varies based on the game, section and seat. Levine says that since 87 percent of tickets last year sold above the floor price, “the floor was basically irrelevant.” New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has launched a probe into the entire ticket industry, targeting primary and secondary sellers alike for burdensome fees and price floors.