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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

StubHub vs. Season Tickets

For some time, I've been ranting here on the MZone about the outrageous cost for tickets to watch Michigan games in the Big House.  I was reminded of my yearly tirades today when I replied to the following tweet from our respected rival, Gerd of OZone fame:

Time for #OSU to stop raising ticket prices? Last week's game was the first under 105,000 since New Mexico St. in 2009.

Finally, something Wolverine and Buckeye fans can agree on.

Yes, I know it's a business.  However, at what point is it not only bad business but damn near ticketeering? (yeah, I made that word up but I kind of like it).  How many people do you think would buy UMass tickets for $65 each* - plus seat licensing fees - if they didn't have to in order to purchase their season tickets (i.e. ticketeering)?

A family of four has to spend $350 (or more) for tickets, parking and something to eat.  And that's for a crap game like UMass.

Yeah, I know life's not fair and nobody is entitled to see the games live.  And I realize "every other school does it."   But it's getting to the point of being ridiculous and potentially coming back to bite some schools in the ass (see Gerd's tweet).  Thus, does it still makes sense, for most season ticket holders, to purchase season tickets - even if you still want to go to every home game?

The MZone decided to find out in our new home-game feature: StubHub vs. Season Tickets in which we compare the cost of getting seats to each and every Michigan game in The Big House on StubHub vs buying season tickets, "seat donations" and all.  Not only will we keep a weekly tally, we'll add it all up at the end of the season to see what the difference is.

Before we begin, our hypothesis:

Even when paying over face value for the handful of big games in which supply and demand cause StubHub ticket prices to rise, it will still be cheaper - and probably substantially so - to buy one's tickets each week via StubHub**.

First, a couple parameters for our little study:

We're assuming two tickets to each game (together) and we'll look at different seat locations, all of which now require a "preferred seat donations" (aka PSDs).  For those not familiar with PSDs, Michigan's website describes them as follows:

The Victors Club Preferred Seat Donation is a part of University of Michigan Athletics overall annual giving program. Currently, three sports have some portion of the season tickets requiring a Preferred Seat Donation -- Football, Men's Basketball Courtside Seats, and Ice Hockey Club Seats. (Note: Courtside and Hockey Club Seats are sold out. You may contact the Victors Club Office to learn more about future availability.)

The color-coded diagram indicates the football preferred seating areas of Michigan Stadium. There are four different annual donation requirements -- Victors ($500 per seat), Valiant ($375 per seat), Maize ($250 per seat) and Blue ($125 per seat). The End Zone donation requirement ($50 per seat) applies to any new season tickets holders in 2005 and beyond.

First of all, it's not giving.  Giving is when I call up to donate to the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon.  When I'm forced to do something, it's taking (see ticketeering).  PSDs are basically a yearly tax for the privilege to be able to buy your U-M season tickets.  The tax rate is based on how good your seats are.

The picture below shows the the seat levels are inside the stadium:

So, what did it cost to purchase U-M season tickets in 2012?  Well, Michigan only has 6 homes games this season due to the opener in Dallas against Alabama.  And of those six games, all of the them have a face value of $75 each - except the MSU game which is $95 per ticket.  Thus, one's ticket cost was $470 per ticket.  But...

The Athletic Department cuts one a break and charges only $390 for season tickets, which works out to $65 per ticket (it's impossible to know how/if they charge differently for the "big" games so we'll have to make it an even $65 each).

But that's not all.  Now tack on your "donation" of $50-$500 per seat and your actual cost of one season ticket is $440 in the endzone, $515 in the "Blue" section, $640 in the "Maize" section, $765 in the "Valiant" section and $890 in the "Victors" section.

Whew!  And that's for one ticket.  Double it unless you're some lonely engineering grad psycho with no friends.

So, let's begin, shall we?


Season Ticket Price - Endzone Seats:

You, dear season ticket holder, have two seats in the endzone which cost $130 plus $100 divided by 6 ($16.67) for a grand total of $146.67.

StubHub Price - Endzone Seats:

Forget the endzone.  As of Monday night, StubHub had two tickets available in the corner, Section 19, Row 34 for $35 each, a total of $70.  But while there is no PSD on StubHub, there is an electronic delivery charge of $4.95 and a service charge of $7.00.  Yes, two tacky tacked on fees.  Totally bullshit but, at a total of $11.95, still less than your more bullshitty $16.67 PSD.

Endzone Total:

Season Ticket Endzone Guy - $146.67
StubHub Dude - $81.95

Winner: StubHub Dude by $64.72.

Now suppose you have/want better seats.  Okay...

Season Ticket Price - Maize Section:

Two tickets in between the 10-20 yard line, say Section 3, cost you the same $130 as Endzone Guy.  But you also had to shell out $500 divided by 6 ($83.33) for a grand total of $213.33 for your chance to watch the UMass sacrifice.

StubHub Maize Price:

Found two for $55 each.  Same "electronic delivery charge" (aka email) and a service fee of $11.

Maize Section Total:

Season Ticket Maize Guy - $213.33
StubHub Dude - $125.95

Winner: StubHub Dude by $87.38

Now let's live large...

Season Ticket Price - Victors Section

Two tickets in Section 1, right on the 50, only cost you $65 each as part of your season tix.  But $1,000 divided by 6 tacks on another $166.67 (yikes!).

StubHub Victors Price: 

Found a hell of a deal here - two tix in Section 1, Row 85 for $57.49 each (plus $4.95, plus $11.50).

Victors Section Total:

Season Ticket Victors Guy - $296.67
StubHub Dude - $131.43

Winner (by TKO): StubHub Dude by $165.24.

And note that I didn't check every section of every PSD classification for the cheapest tickets.  So there might have even been cheaper endzone or Maize seats, for example.  And it's Monday night as I write this blog post.  I'm guessing UMass tickets aren't going to go up as the week goes on.

Ticketeering, folks.  Ticketeering.

PS  If I buy my MSU tickets on StubHub as I finish up this post, I can get two in the endzone for $220 each, or in Section 1 for $450 each.  Will the hypothesis hold?  We'll see.

UConn for $59 bucks sounds like an absolute steal now

* While face value is $75 on each UMass ticket, it breaks down to $65 each when part of a season ticket package

** Ed. Note: Things may be different in 2013 when Michigan's home schedule has three probable "big" games in which one will have to pay more than face value for tickets: ND, Nebraska and Ohio State.  But over the long haul, like a professional poker player with swings of both up and down yet who ends up in the black, I believe the advantage will still be with StubHub. 


Nick said...

Season tickets were $390/seat this year, not $470 (or at least mine were anyway). I guess it's a "deal" since you pay less than face value for each ticket (until you factor in the PSD of course).

Dennis said...

I'm thinking of setting the over/under at 5.5 for the number of games Yost actually does this. :)

Seriously, I'm sure the ticket office loves you know. Expect a post to be installed in front of your seats.

Yost said...


Good catch. My bad. Updated.


You're probably right re: 5.5.

sarcasMike said...

My end zone season tickets (section 6) have, as of yet, not required any donation. I think they're the best deal in the stadium (for a season ticket holder) - 4 seats from the Blue donation required seats and 2 rows below the club seats.

Yost said...


Post-2005, all season tix, even endzone, require a PSD.

Tal said...

There is also a rather large fee charged by StubHub when you buy from them. Did you factor that in to your analysis?

Yost said...

Tai, it's all there in the post. And it's not that large (compared to PSD).

Mikoyan said...

Do you also include the donations you have to make to the University to bump yourself up on the priority list?

Dave said...


As a (4) Maize Season Ticket holder, the cost for a ticket is $780/pair + a $10 surcharge + the $500/pair donation. I regularly sell my extra tickets on StubHub and sold student tickets in college (back when you could sell them without validation. With 15+ years of selling experience, I will tell you that bad games like Umass drop to NOTHING at game time and generally games drop in value in the last week before the game (exception 2006, 1997 OSU games and truely "once in a century" games) With StubHub offering instant download, if I didn;t have tickets, I would just show up on campus the day of the game, cherry pick the stubhub seats, use my Alumni login at Angel Hall and print out the cheap tickets. EX, I sold two airforce tickets early for about $90/net each on SH and they could be bought game day for $25. Umass I got $107/ticket net (my cost) and we'll see what they go for game day. SH instant download and an iphone is also a great way to bargin with a scalper.

Yost said...

Mik, no. Just the yearly hard costs.

Good stuff, Dave.