Since the NFL draft launched in 1936, it has gone from a back-room operation with little fanfare to a nationally televised event watched by almost 50 million fans combined, which was the highest rating ever for the NFL draft. As an advertisement for the league, it’s off-season gold and a big money maker for the league and their broadcast partner, Disney.
Despite all the exposure the draft drives, until this season, it had not been a driver of NFL ticket sales, at least not for the teams directly. As recently as a couple years ago, in fact, teams did not have individual tickets available until late summer, if at all. The secondary ticket market, however, has long used the draft (along with the schedule release) as the unofficial start of ticket selling season. For the 2019 draft, however, 24 of 32 teams listing tickets the primary market through either Ticketmaster or Seatgeek, up from a handful last year. The below grid lays out the teams that are actively competing in the 2019 ticket market.
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|Actively Selling Teams||Secondary Avg||Primary Availability|
|Los Angeles Chargers||$302||Most Sections|
|Miami Dolphins||$280||Most Sections|
|New York Jets||$244||Most Sections|
|San Francisco 49ers||$234||Most Sections|
|Los Angeles Rams||$231||Most Sections|
|Washington Redskins||$228||Most Sections|
|New York Giants||$214||Most Sections|
|Tennessee Titans||$212||Most Sections|
|Arizona Cardinals||$211||Most Sections|
|Kansas City Chiefs||$210||Most Sections|
|Baltimore Ravens||$208||Most Sections|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||$195||Most Sections|
|Cincinnati Bengals||$167||Most Sections|
|Indianapolis Colts||$139||Most Sections|
|Jacksonville Jaguars||$129||Most Sections|
If 2018 was the year that the myth of the sold-out ticket market died in sports and music, 2019 appears to be the first glimpse of that comes next, at least in the NFL. Thanks to distribution-ready technology from Ticketmaster and Seatgeek, teams can not only sell tickets on their site, they can also set distribution rules for marketplaces like Stubhub, Seatgeek, and TicketIQ, the company I started 9 years ago. They can also leverage direct-selling integrations and deals with platforms like Facebook and Google to reach fans inside social and other media with a level of precision unimaginable 10 years ago. While the above teams have tickets available for most games, in most sections, the below teams are focused on filling in the upper level, or revenue optimizing to take advantage of market-based pricing.
|Toe Dippers + Rev Optimizers||Secondary Avg||Primary Market|
|Chicago Bears||$438||Very Limited|
|Dallas Cowboys||$429||Very Limited|
|Seattle Seahawks||$394||Very Limited|
|Philadelphia Eagles||$331||Very Limited|
|Oakland Raiders||$264||Very Limited|
|Minnesota Vikings||$260||Very Limited|
|Houston Texans||$293||Limited Upper|
|Denver Broncos||$305||Limited Uppers|
|Carolina Panthers||$246||Limited Uppers|
While some of the biggest names above still use the secondary market as their primary distribution channel, for 2019 the majority of NFL teams are testing their own flavor of direct-to-consumer selling. For teams with a secondary-first strategy, most have shifted away from working with hundreds of smaller brokers to consolidators, a kind of super broker that manages and takes risk on a team’s secondary sales and also helps them manage downside risk while giving them a share of the upside—based on what happens on the field. There are also at least a few teams-- the Patriots, Packers and Saints-- that are actually sold out, the old fashioned way. For those teams, the secondary market is the best and only option.
|Sold Out Or Not Onsale||Secondary Avg||Primary Market|
|New England Patriots||$677||Sold Out|
|Cleveland Browns||$234||Sold Out|
|Green Bay Packers||$326||Sold Out|
|New Orleans Saints||$309||Sold Out|
|Pittsburgh Steelers||$289||May 3rd Onsale|
|Buffalo Bills||$138||May 14th Onsale|
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Below is an overview of prices on the secondary ticket market as well as a primer on what ticket selling strategies we're seeing from various NFL teams on the eve of the 2019 draft, and with five months until the start of the NFL’s 100th season. All the information below is based on current ticket information publicly available on Ticketmaster, Seatgeek and TicketIQ’s Secondary marketplace.
Vikings: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 99.9%
Now in the third year at U.S. Bank, the Minnesota Vikings are still technically in the honeymoon phase of their billion dollar stadium that opened in 2016. According to ESPN, last season, they filled 99.9% of their seats for home games. At a $260 average price on the secondary market this season, prices are at their highest point since 2016 when tickets averaged $339 for the inaugural season at the new stadium. Despite those numbers, tickets are available for the two highest-demand games of the season: the opener against the Falcons and the December 23rd game against the rival Packers. For each game, though, there’s a very limited number primary-market tickets on Ticketmaster, making this a toe-dip more than a splash. Prices for 4th row end zone tickets for the Packers are available for $640 after fees, which is in-line with the cost on Stubhub and TicketIQ. The same tickets for the Falcons game are going for $325.
Bears, Seahawks, Eagles: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 100%
With high expectations, these teams enter 2019 with amongst the high-demand marketplaces in the league. Like the Vikings, these are using the cushion that affords to dipping a toe into direct-to-fan selling for both the high and low demand game on their schedules. While there’s some variation by section, prices are marginally more expensive comparable listings on the secondary market.
For the Eagles, even the highest-demand game against the Patriots has tickets available on the primary market. With less than 50 tickets available for that game, lower level end zone seats are going $425 each after fees. Despite those ‘unsold’ tickets, according to a sales rep at the team, the Eagles have a ‘multi-year’ waitlist for season tickets. It’s the same story at the Bears and Seahawks, and evidence that in the new era of tickets, season tickets can be sold out even if single-game tickets are not.
On Ticketmaster, the Eagles have single game tickets not just for high-demand games like Patriots, but also for lesser opponents like the Jets, where end-zone seats are going for $300 each. Even in that low-demand price tier, the team is taking in more revenue compared to the season-ticket holder discount. While the Eagles are a good lesson in how to capturing ‘market-driven’ margins, it seems they’re still leaving some money on the table. For what could be TB12s final visit to Philly, secondary market prices are about 10% higher than what’s available from the team.
Rams and Chargers: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 77% and 121%
The Chargers play in the smallest NFL stadium while the Rams play in one of the largest. As a result, Chargers have an average price on the secondary market over $300, $70 above the average price for secondary-market tickets for the NFC-Champion Rams. In 2018, however, the Rams sold double the amount of tickets to see football in LA, drawing over 70,000 fans to the oldest stadium in football. Combined in 2018, the two LA teams sold 100,000 tickets per home game. In two years, they’ll have to increase that to 160,000 if they both want to sell out their home games at the the $2.6 billion stadium and entertainment district that is scheduled for play next season.
As for primary-market availability, both LA teams have thousands of tickets to sell for each game on Ticketmaster. While the Chargers are selling tickets across all sections of the 32,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park, the Rams selling is much more focused in the 200 and 300 level. As for pricing, both teams are in-line with the secondary market, with one interesting exception: for the best seats,the Chargers are significantly cheaper than Stubhub or TicketIQ. For the lowest-demand Chargers game against the Texans, a 10th row ticket behind the Chargers bench is selling for $211 compared to $376 on the secondary market. If the team is trying to hook future VIPs at entry-level prices, it’s an innovative tactic that may help them fill some the 80,000 seats awaiting for them next year.
Jets and Giants: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 93% and 95%
Over the course of the Eli Manning Era, New York has been a Giants city. Over the last 5 years, however, the average price for Giants tickets on the secondary market has dropped from over $300 to $217. While the Jets have had a more turbulent ticket history, for 2019 prices on the secondary market are headed up, with prices up 40% compared to the start of the season last year. With average secondary-market prices of $209 for the Jets and $217 for the Giants, both New York teams have solid markets that will likely go up if the teams win.
On the primary market, while the Jets have been in the single-game business for a few years, for the Giants direct-to-fan single game sales is new territory. Giant’s season tickets used to be a generational inheritance that were expensive and difficult to come by. In 2019, their a couple clicks away, and cheaper than ever. They’re also available to be purchased at an impulse for the first time in a generation, especially if you’re looking to sit in the upper levels. Lower Level shoppers will need to stick to the secondary market.
The Jets have tickets available on the primary market for every game, in almost every section Giants price tiers for tickets in section 126 are $162, $187 and $237, based on the opponent. For the Jets, prices range from from $170 for the Bills to $200 for the Patriots and $220 for the Cowboys.
Panthers: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 100%
After their Super Bowl visit in 2015, the average price for Panthers tickets peaked in 2016 at an average price of $233 on the secondary market. For 2019, prices are under $200 for the first time since 2014. According to ESPN, the Panthers seats filled 100% of their seats last season at Bank of America Stadium with under 10,000 seats available in the secondary market, which means that most people who have tickets actually use them. The majority of single-game tickets available directly from the team are towards the back of the 300s level, and prices for those tickets are in-line in-line with secondary market based pricing across most games.
Raiders: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 100.3%
Unable to find a 1-year rental before their move to Vegas in 2020, the 2019 Raiders return to Oakland for what may be a zombie season when it comes to ticket sales. While no numbers have been released, the very-public effort to find a 1-year home away from Oakland had to have impacted season ticket subscribers. While we won’t know what damage it’s done until September, the team isn’t panicking, with only 100 tickets per game available on Ticketmaster, all in the same six sections of the lower bowl. Prices on the secondary market are also up significantly from last year, which likely means the team is working with a consolidator to keep it there. With one game in London, it also helps there are only 7 games games left before moving to Las Vegas.
Texans: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 99% With their first division championship since 2016, and a dynamic face of the franchise in Deshaun Watson, prices for Texans tickets on the secondary secondary market have almost doubled. On the eve of the draft, the average price for Texas Tickets is $293, up from $57 last year. Amidst that dynamic, the Texans officially went onsale this morning, just hours before the draft, making single game tickets available through Ticketmaster across all their games at NRG Stadium. The majority of the available inventory is in the upper level, with prices that are in-line with the secondary market.
Titans: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 92%
Colts: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 94%
Cardinals: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 95%
Redskins: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 74%
Buccaneers: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 82%
No team has taken on the secondary market more aggressively than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After not renewing thousands of season ticket holders three years ago, the Bucs have been on a path toward market consolidation for some time. Despite a class action lawsuit filed last January, the Bucs appear to be in full assault of the secondary market. Over the last three years, the quantity of tickets available in the secondary market dropped from over 20,000 to under 2,000. Ticketmaster.com has the majority of inventory available for sale this season, With so little supply on the secondary market, prices are twice as high as the primary market, which is exactly what the Bucs are looking for as they look to make the flip to a team-driven marketplace faster than any other NFL team. While they have more control over their ticketing than any other team, they also have more risk. With renewed confidence in Jameis Winston, the 5th pick in the 2019 draft and 7 picks overall, Buccaneers ticket revenue stand to benefit from a strong draft and competitive season more than any other team in football.
Chiefs: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 99%
With a new face of the franchise in Patrick Mahomes and Super Bowl expectations, the price for Chiefs tickets in the secondary market is up almost 50% from last season. In addition to one of the biggest jumps in the secondary market, the team also leads the league in tickets available on the secondary market, with close to 50,000 tickets available for sale across all their home games. These huge numbers are likely the result of a market consolidator deal, similar to what the Dodgers did last season. While these deals rely heavily on secondary market distribution, it also means that the team will be keeping tight reins on prices.
Those high prices will also benefit margin on the primary side, as the Chiefs have about 1,000 tickets available on Ticketmaster.com each game, with prices about 5% cheaper than the secondary market. In addition to maximizing margin, this price advantage also serves to signal the value of buying direct from the team. When it comes to ticketings, the Chiefs seem to be having their cake and eating it as well.
Cowboys: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 91%
With the biggest stadium in the NFL, the Cowboys need to leverage every channel possible to fill Jerry World. Last year, they finished near the bottom of the league with only 91% of capacity filled for their home-games. They also led the league with an average of 91,000 fans per game. After the Chiefs, the Cowboys have the largest amount of inventory available for sale on the secondary market. Historically, they have not used the primary market for any direct sales, and while that is largely the case this year, they have made Standing Room Only tickets available directly through Seatgeek, their new primary ticketing platform.
Other teams with highest secondary inventory:
49ers: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 100%
Bills: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 90%
Still Sold Out
Patriots: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 100%
Whether or not they’ve won the Super Bowl the prior year, the Patriots almost always lead the league in highest secondary market price. In addition to tremendous demand to see TB12, the Patriots also have the lowest quantity of tickets on the secondary market. For 2019, nothing has changed and while they don’t have any single game tickets for sale, they do have a season-ticket waitlist, which you can join for a non-refundable deposit of $100.
Packers: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 100%
Browns: Onsale 5/3 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 97%
Of the four teams that are not yet onsale, the Browns are the most interesting case, given their strong finish last year and the signing of big-name talent like Odell Beckham Jr. For 2019, the average price on the secondary market for Browns tickets is $197, which is the highest average price this decade for games in Cleveland. It’s also almost double the $104 average in 2017, which was the lowest price this decade. Prior to the Mayfield era, the Browns had been active single-game ticket sellers. With secondary-market tickets available under $25 for most games, they didn’t have much luck. With prices up as much as they are for 2019, though, the Browns could be aggressive single-game sellers and likely make more money selling tickets than ever before. Since November, the team says they’ve sold over 11,000 new season tickets and, as if to formalize their arrival to the world of high-demand tickets, they’ve even instituted a waitlist, which you can get onto for $100 per ticket.
Steelers: 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 92%
Falcons: Onsale TBD 2018 Percent Capacity Filled: 97%
August 12, 2018
With Week One of NFL Pre-sason behind us, there are important early story lines that have emerged. While there still more questions than answers, several teams made a statement on the field that could drive prices for 2018 NFL tickets. The Colts, Jets, Brown and Ravens all had strong showings in their first game, which means they may look like value picks for the 2018 NFL season once October rolls around.Least Expensive Prices for 2018
Despite making the playoffs for the first time in a decade, Bills tickets are the cheapest this year in the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who came one win from the Super Bowl, are also one of 14 teams with average prices below $200. That list also includes two other NFL playoff teams from last year, in the Chiefs and the Lions. After strong first preseason games, Jets and Colts fans may have reason for optimism to go along with their low-priced tickets.
Most Expensive Prices for 2018
Despite losing the Super Bowl to the Eagles, the Patriots lead the league in NFL prices for the second season in a row. The Super Bowl Champion Eagles rank third on the list of most expensive average prices for 2018, behind the Broncos. The Seahawks and Steelers round out the 5 most expensive average prices for the 2018 season.
Most Expensive Games for 2018
Not surprisingly, the top-ranked Patriots have six of the most expensive games for the 2018 season. After that, the Seahawks and Broncos are next on the list with two games at Century Link Field and Mile High Stadium in the top 20 most expensive games. While the Cowboys don't have any games at AT&T stadium in the top 20, they visit the Texans, Seahawks and Eagles for three of the most expensive games in 2018.
Cost Per Win For 2018
Using ESPN's projected win data, along with our average prices above, we came up with a measure of cost-per-win for every NFL team. The Chiefs lead the way with lowest cost per-win at $14. According to ESPN, they're projected to have 8.6 wins, which should be enough for a playoff spot. At 6.8-.9 wins, the Bills, Bengals and Colts are one upset from a shot at the post-season, which could make them sleeper value candidates for 2018.
On the other end of the value spectrum are the Patriots, who will cost you $50 per win at Gillette Stadium. With only two more years of Tom Brady, fans are happy to pay up to see him try to close out his career with another championship run. At 10.5 projected wins, that $50 seems a lot more sensible than paying the same for the Broncos or Bears, who are projected under 7 wins.
In the Battle of New York in 2018, Jets ticket are by far the better value, at $25 per win vs. the Giants $45 cost per win.
Biggest Annual Increase and Decrease from 2017
After their first playoff appearance since 2008, Titans fans are excited about Marcus Mariota, Derrick Henry and the prospects for 2018. At an average price of $277, Titans ticket prices are 8th most expensive in the league, after a 66% price increase from 2017. Despite only winning 6 teams and not making the playoffs, Jimmy Garappolo's strong finish has also raised expectations for Niners-nation. With an average price of $240, 49ers ticket prices are still 35% below prices in their first year at Levi's stadium.
The two biggest price decreases for this season are the Falcons, Raiders and Cowboys. Cowboys tickets are down 36%, which is the 4th biggest drop this season. It's also the lowest price for Cowboys tickets since 2011, when the they finished 8-8. For the Raiders, despite the addition of Coach Jon Gruden, prices are down after they failed to make the playoffs last year. This season, every Raiders game has tickets under $100, other than the opener against the Rams, and the Steelers first visit to Oakland since 2013, and their last before the Raiders relocate to Las Vegas.
Overall Size of the Secondary Market
As the below shows, the size of the NFL secondary market has decreased significantly, to $122 million in gross listed volume. That's down fro a peak of $365 million in 2014. That change is consistent with tighter control of the secondary market by teams and a focus on selling directly to fans through the primary market.