Monday, November 25, 2013

Variable pricing to benefit both the Red Sox and fans

By Zachary Baru

In an industry that has seen many changes in recent years when it comes to ticket sales, the need to fill the ballpark to capacity and the growing competition from the secondary market has forced the Boston Red Sox to introduce a popular trend in ticket sales, variable pricing.

Variable pricing is more than raising prices for the dates with the highest demand, it also includes lowering prices for the dates with the lowest demand, giving fans the opportunity to purchase tickets in 2014 from the box office for as low as $10.  This will give the Red Sox a better chance to sell out certain dates that statistically do not sell well.  And yes, the statistics are about the dates, not the opponents. 

The Red Sox conducted an internal study, ranking the 81 home dates from most to least desirable for fans to purchase.  This resulted in a schedule with five tiers of pricing, starting with Tier 1 being the highest, and decreasing to Tier 5, comprising of the 16 least desirable dates.

According to the team's study, some of the most popular dates statistically are after the All-Star game in July.  Make no mistake, the variable pricing structure is very much a statistical approach, and one that will allow the team to maximize prices to reflect the market value.

Without the ability to increase or decrease prices based on demand, the Red Sox are at a disadvantage against the secondary market, which allows market value to determine prices.  By the Red Sox introducing variable pricing, the team is moving closer to competing with websites like StubHub, where fans can sell tickets to other fans, and sometimes at prices below face value.  This is something that occurred all too often during 2012.

Now that that the Red Sox have captured another World Series title, and have won back fans, the team will attempt to stay in front of the competition, and curb as many secondary market sales as possible.  The opportunity for fans to purchase tickets at a lower price for games with a lower demand is not only fair, it is essential to selling out games, and more closely resembles supply and demand.  All Major League Baseball teams now have some form of variable pricing, and the Red Sox should not be any different.  Finding ways to increase ticket sales while still offering lower priced tickets presents an opportunity to meet the needs of both the team and the fans, and illustrates why variable pricing is such an effective pricing strategy.

Zach Baru can be followed @zbaru and reached at

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thursday's Bruins game shows why ties belong in the NHL

By Zachary Baru

If you watched Thursday night's Boston Bruins game against the St. Louis Blues, you saw three great periods of hockey, followed by an exciting overtime, and a shootout that illustrates why regular season ties are meant to be just that, ties.

To many hockey fans, a game does not necessarily need to be decided as a win or a loss, and a tie can reward both teams with a hard-fought game, and leave fans feeling entertained for two and a half hours.  Regardless of the fact that postseason overtimes in hockey can be some of the most exciting moments to watch in all of sports, during the regular season it is not necessary to end a game with a gimmick or skill such as a shootout.

After watching an entire game, it is more rewarding to see a team win on a hockey play, rather than on a part of the sport that resembles the skills competition of an all-star game more than anything else.  Thursday night's game was a perfect example.  With the Bruins and Blues tied 2-2 in overtime and 15 seconds remaining, the Bruins' Carl Soderberg had a breakaway opportunity to end the game, but the puck went into the pads of Jaroslav Halak.  Having the game end on a hockey play like that would certainly have been entertaining, but staging a penalty shot in a shootout just does not have the same effect.

Shootouts were introduced to the National Hockey League after the lockout and cancellation of the 2004-05 season.  The league, looking for ways to improve the game from an entertainment standpoint, introduced several rule changes, one of which being the shootout.

While shootouts may excite newer fans, and understanding that this is an audience that the NHL is focused on, traditional fans do not need shootouts to stay interested in hockey.  Rule changes after the lockout such as removing two-line passes and reducing goaltender equipment by eleven percent made the game faster and higher scoring, and to the league's delight, appealing to newer fans.  With the game unquestionably much faster and higher scoring than before the 2004-05 season, is the shootout really necessary?  Aside from disappointing traditional fans, it also changes broadcast schedules, as the shootout lengthens the typical two and a half hour television time slot by about fifteen minutes.

Returning the game to the way it was always played, before the shootout, would satisfy longtime hockey fans who remember when great evenly matched games would end in a tie, rewarding both teams, and leaving all fans feeling entertained.  No gimmicks, no skill competitions, just 1 point for rewarding a team for what happened on the ice, not what happened in a shootout after the game.

Zach Baru can be followed on Twitter @zbaru and reached at