76ers strike deal with StubHub for new ticket sales program

You probably think of StubHub as a company that sells sports tickets on the "secondary market," when someone else who has them wants to get rid of them.

That's about to change in a big way.

The 76ers announced Monday that they've struck a deal with StubHub that will give the company a significant new role in the team's ticket sales. It is the first time ever that StubHub will help operate the "primary" ticket sales market for a team.

Stubhub, the 76ers and Spectra - the company that currently runs the back end of the team's ticket sales website - are partnering to build an entirely new platform that will launch for the 2016-17 season. It will include tickets sold directly by the team and tickets posted for resale by fans all in the same place.

It's not a totally new concept - TicketMaster does it for teams whose secondary ticket exchanges it runs. But StubHub's presentation will look very different, because there won't be any designation of whether a ticket is a primary or secondary sale. You'll see the entire available inventory at once, no matter the price to fans.

"That ticket looks the same whether it is coming from StubHub or from our box office," 76ers chief revenue officer Chris Heck said. "If it's from our box office and there's another ticket next to it that was from StubHub, now we can blend them together. So it gives more options to the purchaser."

For example, Heck said, there might be two seats next to each other where one is sold through the team and one is sold through StubHub. A fan would be able to buy both tickets in the same transaction.

But there's a bit of a catch. Say one of those tickets lists for $50 and one lists for $100. If you searched for the two seats together, you'd see both come up as costing $75 each. If you searched for just one seat, you'd get the original price.

All those sales will generate a lot of data that Heck said the 76ers haven't had access to in the past. Fans' e-mail addresses are of particular value.

"We didn't have an interface with [fans] in the past if they purchased through StubHub directly," he said. "Not only do we get the data, but [fans] are only purchasing through one group now... We'll have the opportunity to sell them other products as well as give them special offers and access they've never had before by going through StubHub - and quite frankly, they wouldn't have gotten that directly through us."

Sales data will be fed back to the team in real time. It will be used, as the team's press release on the StubHub put it, to "allow box offices to maximize pricing."

Yes, that's code for continuing the variable pricing program that allows the 76ers to raise or lower ticket prices based on demand. This can lead to some games being cheaper, but it also allows the team to raise prices fast when demand jumps.

"Everything from the entertainment industry to sports is going that route," Heck said. "We did it with the Lakers this past year."

That decision came with some controversy. It was Kobe Bryant's first game after announcing he'll retire at the end of the season. 76ers fans who suddenly found themselves priced out of a rare high-profile game they would otherwise have attended.

From how Heck put things, expect to see the team make similar moves again in the future. Especially if the team starts winning more consistently, which he thinks they will.

"As we start turning the corner, we think this is an opportunity to get ahead of when the demand spikes," he said.

One thing won't change: the 76ers' ticket sales staff, which is well-regarded by fans and has a reputation for doing its best to make the most of the team's poor record on the court.

"I know there has been a lot of reaction that all these employees are oging to lose their jobs - that's not the case," Heck said. "And it wouldn't be the case if we became a contender for a world championship tomorrow."