Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bargain of the Century

Long ago, NFL Commissioner Bert Bell famously said, "on any given Sunday, any team in the NFL can beat any other team." It's worth noting that Bell died in 1959, long before the current edition of the Oakland Raiders took the field.

But that's just mean. My actual goal here is to salute the Raiders. Pro Football's Dynamic Organization, as the late Raider boss Al Davis liked to call his team, has just dropped some season ticket prices to an astonishingly low level.

As part of a plan to shrink capacity at the Coliseum to about 53,000 (and make TV blackouts less likely), the Raiders have cut some season ticket plans to $250. That's $25 a game (the NFL continues its rapacious practice of making buyers pay full price for exhibition games).

You read that correctly. Sure, these are up in the top deck at the Coliseum, but still: $25 for an NFL ticket.  The league average is almost $80. Just for kicks, I ran some numbers. Let's say that instead of paying for that Raiders ticket, you grabbed a seat at the bar at Pican in Oakland's Uptown and watched on TV. A couple of tasty mint juleps will set you back $24, and you haven't even tipped the bartender. Or eaten.

In fact, a $25 Raiders ticket is a bargain of historical proportions. My esteemed colleague Steve Bitker recalls his family held Raiders tickets when the Coliseum opened in 1966. They cost $6.50 a game.  Adjusted for inflation, that's about $46 today, or almost twice what the Raiders are now charging.  

The Raiders say they are hoping to create a "vibrant game-day environment with a community of season ticket holders." Good for them. A full stadium beats the heck out of a swath of empty seats. Of course, a winning team really helps with that "vibrant game-day environment" thing and the Raiders haven't been one of those in a decade. The last time the Raiders had a winning record, they went to the Super Bowl.

These low prices come as the Raiders face a 2013 home schedule that will include visits by the Broncos, Steelers, Redskins (hey, maybe RG3 will have a miraculous recovery!) and Eagles (come see new coach Chip Kelly import his brand of madness to the NFL!).

The fact of the matter is, ticket sales matter less and less to NFL teams every year. Teams already get close to 2/3 of their revenue from the NFL's TV packages, and that particular pot of gold is about to get a lot heavier. Annual NFL TV revenue will jump to around $8 billion starting next year when new contracts kick in. The Raiders get exactly the same share of that as any other team.

With that kind of money from TV, the league can almost afford to ignore actual paying customers. The Raiders may be on to something here: if the NFL wants to keep its product from being a purely television spectacle, it's going to have to look at ways to convince people to abandon their HDTV's and come to the stadium. A cheaper ticket sure helps.

1 comment:

Bob Wise said...

$25 bucks! Thats a steal. Thats a movie, a bucket of popcorn, a soda and a box of jujubes. I paid a lot more than that when the Raiders relented on their LA experiment and came back to the mausoleum. My 35 yard line club seats at the rail forced me to mortgage the house, sell my first born and take a night job selling Boone's Farm at 7/11. But with a winning team even the late night Boone's Farm fans are tolerable.

Unfortunately we had to later walk away from Al's PSLs (always thought that stood for Pretty Slick Larceny)and our rail seats. After that, when the silver began looking more like gray and the black foreshadowed the death of something great, I was hard pressed to consider giving Al any more of my hard earned late night earnings.

Since that time the team has broken records for losing and for penalties, for dumb draft picks and for the speed with which coaches can be hired and fired. And when I flew to San Diego for the Superbowl, they broke my heart (and my pocketbook.... again... just when I thought I was done dispensing Boone's Farm).

Don't get too excited about the cheap seats, though. The price may simply be a warning to fans about what they can expect on the field again. After all didn't somebody say that you get what you pay for? This is probably just Al's ghost coming back from the grave for one more swindle; entice the fans with reduced prices.... that are still too high. Fans will walk in the gate thinking they got a deal and walk out feeling they got taken. Only Al could pull that one off.