Basketball fans are showing their excitement—or lack thereof—for the start of the NBA regular season in the form of home opener tickets selling for a small fraction of face value.
The 2014-2015 NBA regular season commences on Tuesday, October 28, and clearly, fans in some markets are excited enough to see their teams back in action that they’re willing to pay top dollar for seats. Four of the top five most expensive NBA games this week, as rounded up by the ticket resale and research site TiqIQ, all currently have “get-in” prices starting over $100 and average ticket prices of $300+.
Tonight’s priciest game is, fittingly, the home opener of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, when there will be a ceremony for the team to receive its championship rings; as of Tuesday, the cheapest tickets were selling for just under $200 on the secondary market, according to StubHub. Overall, the most expensive home opener is, unsurprisingly, Thursday’s game in Cleveland, when the Cavaliers get to officially welcome back the return of prodigal son LeBron James, who is playing once again for his hometown team in regular season action. Earlier this week, TiqIQ data indicated that the average price for tickets to Thursday’s Knicks-Cavaliers game was $753, while as of Tuesday the cheapest seat offered at StubHub was around $900.
It’s a very different story, however, in some of the other NBA arenas around the country. Tickets for the home openers for no fewer than nine NBA teams (Dallas, Denver, Indiana, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans, Orlando, Utah, Washington) are going for around $15 or less, according to StubHub, while seats for Wednesday’s matchups of Philadelphia 76ers versus the Indiana Pacers and the Minnesota Timberwolves versus the Memphis Grizzlies are available for around $5. If fans are truly excited about the start of the season, they’re not demonstrating it with a willingness to pay good money to see the games in person.
There’s nothing new about NBA teams struggling to fill arenas, even when special ticket deals and secondary market resale sites cause prices to plunge. What’s noteworthy, however, is that the demand for tickets is so low for teams’ home opener games, when the season is (theoretically) filled with promise and when fan enthusiasm should presumably be high.
Fans are staying home for any number of reasons, including but not limited to: 1) the local team stinks; 2) the local team is not fun to watch; 3) the season is so long that the games don’t seem to matter; and 4) going to games is too much of a hassle and too expensive. Even when ticket prices are low, the cost of going to a game can be high, once parking, souvenirs, and a few $5 hot dogs and $7 beers are added in. Interestingly enough, parking passes for this week’s Indiana Pacers home opener were selling at a higher price than the cheapest tickets ($8.85 vs. $4.95), according to StubHub.
Yet the NBA doesn’t seem particularly concerned about its teams playing in arenas where broad swaths of seats are unfilled, nor about what it means in the grand scheme of things when fans are reluctant to part with a mere $5 to attend games. A big reason why that is so is because the league just signed a $24 billion contract allowing various TV networks to air its games. The new deal nearly triples broadcast revenues for the NBA. Look for broadcasts to focus squarely on the action on the court, with very few shots of the upper sections occupied by … nobody.