08/27/2012 10:56 am ET Updated Oct 27, 2012

The New Ticketmaster-NBA Shop for Tickets: Better for Fans or Worse?

Fans have made clear they want value and choice when it comes to sports tickets. So the question is: will the just-announced multi-year deal between Ticketmaster and the NBA to create one-stop shopping for all NBA tickets promote choice, promote value, or squelch both?

The new Ticketmaster/NBA deal creates a single website -- the sports world's first -- that effectively merges the primary and secondary ticket markets. Fans visiting the site can purchase tickets either directly from teams or from other fans. It's an effort by teams to catch ticket resale markets' popularity, and to use sophisticated dynamic pricing to profit from high demand for certain games.

The Ticketmaster/NBA deal may be great for fans -- as long as it is not exclusive and does not permit teams to manipulate pricing to harm fans. Unfortunately, Ticketmaster and its partners don't have a great track record of promoting consumer choice or consumer value.

Season ticket holders and all NBA fans should be asking teams and the league some hard questions about this deal:

  • Will tickets sold on the new site be subject to price floors or other restrictions that hurt fans? Initial reports have quoted an NBA official saying that minimum resale ticket prices may be set by teams. As NBA tickets are regularly available on fan-to-fan resale markets at prices way below face value, price floors would severely curtail affordable options for fans.
  • Will NBA season ticket holders or others be forced to use this new site to resell their tickets? The best way to promote fans' choices is through an open, competitive ticket marketplace. But Ticketmaster is well known for its exclusive/monopoly contracts that eliminate fans' choices. Will the Ticketmaster/NBA website become fans' only option for NBA tickets? That would eliminate competition and almost certainly lead to the high fees and lousy service that live music fans are so familiar with.
  • As more teams offer restrictive paperless tickets (which force consumers to show photo ID and the purchasing credit card in order to enter a venue), will fans be forced to use this new site to transfer tickets they can't use? Some restrictive tickets can't be given away or resold at all, and some can only be transferred on specific websites. In certain cases, consumers are charged a fee even to give their tickets as gifts to family, friends or clients.

As with any new service that purports to be good for consumers, the devil is in the details. It seems this one will definitely benefit the teams, who gain entrée into the popular and profitable secondary ticket market. Whether fans will benefit depends on the answers to these tough questions -- today and in the future.

We're anxious to hear from those who struck the deal whether "one-stop shopping" for NBA tickets under the Ticketmaster model will promote fan choice or kill it. Stay tuned for answers... if there are any.