The premium seating market as we know it continues to evolve and grow at a rapid pace. Here are five observations on the state of the premium seating market inspired by discussion at this year’s Association of Luxury Suite Directors conference in San Francisco:
- De-Couching is a top priority for venues. Teams know their biggest competition for your time and money is actually the comfort of your living room. Innovations such as NFL Sunday Ticket and DVR have drastically improved the in-home viewing experience. The venues’ goal of getting you off your couch and to the game has spawned significant continued investment. From in-stadium WiFi, mobile apps that allow you to order food right to your seat, special exit routes from premium parking lots, expansion and upgrades of comfortable stadium clubs, and more. Levi’s Stadium even has a garden on the rooftop in case you need a little nature in your life during halftime.
- Experiences Trump Possessions. Companies and individuals are once again spending more freely as the US economy has recovered from the doldrums of the recession. However, there has been a marked shift as people seek unique experiences over material goods. This trend is particularly relevant in corporate entertainment, as expanding budgets allow for ‘bucket list’ experiences to be fulfilled. Want Joe Montana in your suite for the game? Want to get dropped off at the Masters with your best client via helicopter? All it takes is money and connections.
- There is a new definition of luxury. When it comes to luxury experiences, high-end furnishings and free-flowing Dom Perignon are now just table-stakes. According to Dimensional Innovations, when it comes to experiences, true luxury is when the rules don’t apply to you. The Global Entry program that speeds Trusted Travelers through customs while others wait in lengthy lines is a great example of this. And when it comes to stadiums, it’s the symbolic touches like having a parking spot right in front of the stadium with your name on it that is just the sort of thing that makes you feel different than the other patrons. True luxury is when the rules don’t apply to you and the premium seating market is finding new ways to make their most important patrons feel special. Now VIP ticket holders can get pre-game field passes to an NFL game, cheerleader visits in a suite, access to the tunnel at an NBA game… the limit is usually one’s imagination. In the years ahead, the definition of luxury will continue to push the boundaries.
- Ticket Market Consolidation. Big ticket brokers are squeezing out the little ones (exhibit A: PrimeSport and Stubhub’s deal at the Super Bowl). Primary market players (teams, venues, TicketMaster) are directly competing with the big secondary players (Exhibit B: Stubhub’s lawsuit with the Warriors). There is serious money to be made and the days of getting tickets from the shady broker on the corner have been replaced by mobile tickets and sophisticated pricing algorithms. Expect to see the delineation between the primary and secondary market converge as teams embrace variable pricing strategies and secondary companies partner with the ticket rights holders (e.g., ScoreBig has become a reliable channel for the teams and TicketMaster to sell distressed ticket inventory, but ScoreBig also relies heavily on broker inventory). What does this mean for the customer? Most likely it means higher-prices and fewer ticket sources for the events they want to attend. But customers are also getting more savvy and they are armed with information to help them find the best source for their tickets (as evidence of this, SeatGeek has raised over $100M to be the Kayak for event tickets).
- Markets trend towards transparency. The premium seating market is the last frontier for teams and VIP brokers who claim to provide unique and otherwise unattainable access to front-row tickets, luxury suites, and celebrity experiences. StubHub long-ago made sure that you can get a ticket to nearly any major event in America, as long as you’re willing to make liberal use of your credit card. But just as the other segments of the economy have been transformed by collaborative consumption and sharing (think NetJets, Uber, Rent the Runway), so too is the premium seating market being transformed by efficient market forces. At Suite Experience Group, we’re making it easier to get a luxury suite for any event that you want. And we’re hearing incredibly positive feedback from both buyers and sellers. Customers love the fact that they can now rent a luxury suite for only the games they want to attend. Teams and suite owners love that they can monetize suites that would otherwise go unused or underutilized. Markets become more efficient over time and we’re doing our best to be a catalyst in this trend.
As a consumer, you can expect continued innovation in the premium seating and luxury suite markets. Here’s to the suite life.