Aims to do for Event Tickets What Priceline Did for Hotels

sporting events tickets - ScorebigWith the average price of a seat at a professional sporting event at $50, taking a family of four to a hockey, basketball or other game can be an expensive outing and can quickly add up to $300 when food, drinks and transportation are added., a ticketing website based in Los Angeles, aims to lessen that cost -- at least the ticket part of it -- by selling tickets that it says are 10% to 70% off face value to customers who set the price they want to pay and then hope it's accepted. It works like, the popular travel site where shoppers name their price and then wait a few minutes to see if it was accepted.

"We as an industry have outpriced the casual fan," said Adam Kanner, CEO of ScoreBig, in an interview with WalletPop.But just as good as getting discounted tickets is that ScoreBig doesn't charge fees that many ticket sellers -- often called convenience or venue fees, including mailing or printing fees -- pile on top of ticket prices. The price you offer for the ticket is the amount immediately charged to your credit card if your offer is accepted.

ScoreBig is in beta mode and has a two-week waiting list for new members to get in, but it offered immediate access for WalletPop readers by clicking here. You'll need to register with your name, ZIP code, email and set up a password. A credit card isn't needed to sign into the site, and membership is free. The site offers tickets to sporting events, concerts and theaters in every major market in the country.

I tried it for tickets in my area for a Golden State Warriors game, and while the recommended price for the seats I was testing was 10% or more below face value, a quick look at other online ticket sellers gave me a better idea than ScoreBig did for a good bidding price. I'll get to the specifics of my ticket search later, but be aware that while ScoreBig shows the exact price you'll pay for a ticket and how much less that is than face value, it doesn't tell you what other sites are offering similar tickets for. Better prices could be found elsewhere, depending on the popularity of the event you want to go to.

"You have to be able to take control in your own hands and tell us what price you want to pay," Kanner said. "That's how we're able to offer the prices we do."

As with Priceline, shoppers are told how much recent customers saved on the same tickets, giving you an idea of what chance you have for being accepted. If tickets with a face value of $100 are selling for $90 (a 10% discount) within the past 24 hours for most of its users, the recommendation is to stay within that same discount if you want to get the seats. If your bid isn't accepted, you're locked out of bidding on that seating area for 24 hours, although lesser seats are immediately offered for sale if they're available.

Kanner wouldn't tell me how low of a threshold his site has for accepting bids, saying it depends on the popularity of the event and the number of tickets available, among other factors. Prices change by the hour and could go up or down days before an event.

Event tickets are a perishable commodity, Kanner said, with 40% of the industry's tickets unsold each year. "We as an industry would love to have people in those empty seats," he said.

ScoreBig doesn't get its tickets from individual fans, but from teams, venues, ticket brokers and companies with sponsorship deals at venues that have extra tickets they don't need. Like outlet malls, TJ Maxx and Marshalls sell unsold goods, or how Hotwire and Priceline sell unused hotel rooms and flights, ScoreBig is a "value channel" for selling unsold inventory, Kanner said.

For fans who can't or don't buy direct from the seller (the Warriors, for example), TicketMaster is usually the next stop because it's the primary market where full retail price is paid, along with 20% or more in fees. This is for buyers who want tickets and are willing to pay a high price before they're sold out.

Next is the secondary market to buy from brokers or fans reselling their tickets through sites such as StubHub. Secondary market fees are 20%-25%, Kanner said, which can push ticket prices that look like deals beyond face value.

After that comes ScoreBig, which guarantees that every ticket it sells is below retail value. But customers must make certain concessions, among them:
  • You're not able to pick the seat, row or specific section you want. If you want an aisle seat or prefer to sit in the third row and not the 21st row, go somewhere else. ScoreBig offers tickets by what it calls "star ratings," or seats in the same price category. You'll know before you buy which area you'll be in, but not if you'll be in the first or last row.
  • Prices aren't shown, at least not what ScoreBig is charging. It provides the retail price and how much in service and delivery fees other resellers charge, but ScoreBig customers must enter their own price. The site tells you how much other members have saved in the past 24 hours, which implies that your price likely won't be accepted if it falls drastically below that percentage.
  • Being locked out of a seating section for 24 hours if your price isn't accepted.
  • Being told how you will get the tickets. Because customers don't pay fees, ScoreBig determines how they'll be delivered -- electronically, FedEx, printed at home, or left at will call. Whatever the delivery method, it's factored into the price of the ticket, so you don't see the fee as a separate charge.
That last part about delivery fees should be taken into account when coming up with an offering price. StubHub may have a lower ticket price, but adding in fees could equate to a higher price on ScoreBig.

In my unscientific comparison for Warriors tickets on Wednesday, I looked for two mid-level tickets in section 128 for the March 13 game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. ScoreBig put the face value of these at "up to $180," which would increase to $205.16 if fees were added by another seller. ScoreBig also told me that its members had saved more than 10%, equating to $18 off. In other words, I should offer $162 per ticket. Given the sorry state of the Warriors, I'm not about to pay $162 for tickets, no matter how good the seats.

Here's what I found elsewhere for two tickets in section 128 for that game, but note that the prices are before any service or delivery fees, which Kanner says can add 20% or more to a ticket price:

StubHub: $89 for row 23 to $749 for row 17, which must be for crazy rich people who want a bartender or some such service. Row 12 was $140 per ticket.

TicketMaster: Nothing but full price here, with the $180 face value ticket selling for $196.05 when fees were added.$80 for row 23 to $165 for row 1. $94 for row 23 to $158 for row 5.

Western States Ticket Service: I had never heard of this site, which offered row 8 for $120 and row 5 for $195.

Overall, VividSeats had the best deal, although it doesn't detail up front how much its fees are on top of the ticket price.

All of that research took less than 10 minutes, and is a good starting point in determining what price to offer for a similar section through ScoreBig.

For an offer of $95 (which takes into account service fees), ScoreBig could offer some good seats. I'd rather offer a bid based on ticket prices at other websites than overpay for seats that could be in the top row of the area where I want to sit.

If the Warriors ever decide to hang on to their star players and get owners who are serious about winning, I may take a chance on scoring big tickets to a game.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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