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Death of the baseball ticket

On deck for 2013: Major League Baseball paper tickets may drop to less than 10% of tickets sold.

By MSN Money Partner Oct 11, 2012 1:03PM

This post comes from Jeremy Olshan at partner site MarketWatch.


MarketWatch logoMajor League Baseball wants to stop selling tickets. That is, the kind printed on card stock with perforated edges and a U.S. Constitution's worth of disclaimers crammed onto the back in three-point type.


Image: Couple Making Online Purchase © Fuse, Getty ImagesThe traditional ticket stub accounted for less than a third of single-game seats sold this past season, down from 55% in 2011, league executives say, as fans continue to embrace digital tickets delivered by email or text message. That number should drop to less than 10% by next season with the help of apps like Apple's new Passbook feature on the iPhone, they say, and in coming years paper tickets may be Cooperstown relics.


In fact, Passbook -- which allows tickets and loyalty cards from a variety of outlets to be delivered to one iPhone app -- proved to be an instant hit with fans, Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLB Advance Media, tells MarketWatch. In its test run with four teams for the final two weeks of the season, 1,500 e-ticket buyers (12%) chose Passbook delivery. "That adoption rate really floored us. There is no question our fans want digital tickets," Bowman says. "Fans can use the tickets, forward them to a friend, resell them or even donate them to charity -- and they never get lost or left at home."


If convenience is the principal benefit of digital tickets to fans, what's in it for sports leagues? Data, says Bowman. "From a team perspective, the biggest advantage is knowing who is at the ballpark, how many times they come and where they sit," he says. Though Apple does not share user data through Passbook, the trove of personal information fans provide through MLB's iPhone app can be used to create new loyalty programs and better targeted marketing campaigns.

"If you know someone goes to the Brewers game every time the Cardinals are in town, they may be as much a Cardinals fan as a Brewers fan, and you want to send them different types of communications," Bowman says. "Or if you have a fan who always sits in the third tier but goes to 20 home games, you can upgrade his ticket on the 21st game to right behind home plate."


In other words, expect more emails, offers and advertising.


Oddly, the rise of the digital ticket is making the old paper ones more valuable, collectors say. Few lament the loss of ticket stubs until they witness a series clincher, a perfect game or other memorable feat, says Dean Macchi, the president of That's My Ticket, which frames, preserves and enlarges ticket stub collectibles. "It's one of the few true artifacts that was in the stadium for a historic moment." The company is even licensed to create framed replica tickets (starting at $25) for those wishing to preserve their day at the ballpark with something more tangible than an iPhone bar code image.


Knowing the paper tickets hold value, season ticket holders often leave them at home and use digital ones at the game. "We've seen that after the recent perfect games, a large number of mint condition unused game tickets suddenly flood the market," Macchi says.


As fewer people use paper tickets, more are beginning to appreciate them, says collector Mark Townsend. A May 14, 1967, stub from the game Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run recently sold on eBay for $3,850. "I think you'll see more and more tickets at card shows, auction houses and on eBay, meaning that collectors are already starting to see the value of the real ticket," Townsend says. "And if the supply of tickets sold goes down, the price should go up."


More on MarketWatch and MSN Money:


Oct 12, 2012 7:33AM

Time was when we could buy tickets to go to the game...

Not so anymore..Our family cant afford the tickets anymore, prices

are too high for our budget now...

Oct 12, 2012 10:14AM
So, MLB is forcing us to go with the feature where we're charged to print the tickets at home using our own ink and paper as opposed to the free delivery of hard tickets to our homes or to even pick up at will call?  In addition, a lot of collectibles given away at stadiums that are sold on ebay and craigslist now come with the hard ticket. The option to have a paper or virtual ticket is nice, but there are still people out there who like to have the hard tickets.
I will never pay to see any professional sport until prices come down.  I remember in 1970 a professional football game ticket was $7.
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