The Detroit Lions announced on Monday that they would do variable pricing for their tickets going forward, marking the first NFL franchise to adopt a procedure a few Major League Baseball teams have adopted in an effort to curb sinking attendance issues.
How variable ticket pricing works is, the team will place a value on a game based on the demand for the event. There will be three categories that a game can be placed in, presumably "low, normal and premium", which will fluctuate the price of each game.
For example, Lions preseason games are expected to decrease by around 70 percent, while something like the Thanksgiving Day game will be the most expensive ticket of the season.
"Data from the secondary market has equipped us to make more educated and fair pricing decisions based on anticipated demand," Lions VP of Ticketing and Suite Sales, Todd Lambert, stated in a release on Monday. "We're now using that information to offer a better ticket experience for season ticket members who previously paid the same price regardless of the matchup or viability as a regular or preseason game."
Variable ticket pricing is something I thought might come to the NFL, but I assumed that the "low" category games would fall simply on preseason games while the rest of the 16 regular season games remained in the "normal" or "premium" category and that appears to be the case.
The biggest question is how this would affect season ticket holders, but according to the Lions press release season ticket holders would see their typical discount as well as the 70 percent reduction in preseason game prices.
For baseball, variable ticket pricing seems to work and makes sense, because there are so many games. Teams recoup the ticket price decrease in the simple fact of selling more for less and on the increase premium games. In the NFL however there are only 10 home games, so reducing the cost of two while increasing the price of two is just a game of re-arranging where the money lies.
TL, DR - Variable ticket pricing appears to be a method for the NFL to nuke the price of preseason games, yet recoup the money by upping the single-game ticket for premium games. Nothing is really gained, nothing is really lost. It looks good, publicly however.