The majority of season ticket holders don’t attend every game (particularly across the NBA, NHL and MLB, which have lengthy home slates), and given the rising cost of attendance, fewer can afford to do so. While some choose to give away seats they are not using, many others look to sell them on the secondary market. But the proliferation of resale sites over the last 15 years and the resulting fragmentation (in terms of where buyers go to look for seats), has made it increasingly difficult for both sellers and buyers. TiqAssist attempts to help U.S.-based season ticket holders solve the market inefficiency. “If you’re listing on just one marketplace, you’re only reaching 20-25% of [potential] buyers,” says CEO Chris Babu. “We’re reaching 100%.”
JWS’ Take: TiqAssist was born out of Babu’s personal experience. The former eBay and StubHub senior manager, an A’s and Warriors season ticket holder, recognized the difficulty—and stress—he was experiencing when trying to sell tickets to games he could not attend. He thought, “If I’m having trouble selling season tickets, what is the average Joe who doesn’t have the [analytics and industry] expertise facing?”
People assume selling tickets on the secondary market is easy, that “you just throw them up on StubHub or Ticketmaster, and they sell,” Babu said. But that is not the case. Sellers “need to do research to price the tickets” because the pricing engines provided by the marketplaces “are based on historical sale prices,” he said. “Telling me what someone sold their tickets for two months ago—or even last week—is not relevant to the market today.”
Babu also found via conversations with clients and the company’s own experience that sellers have to re-price their tickets several times because the overwhelming majority of games exhibit a downward pricing trend as the game approaches (applies across all marketplaces). “If you don’t price aggressively enough to begin with, you’re just going to chase that price curve down towards the bottom. It’s a lot of work [to get tickets sold],” he said.
TiqAssist provides another option. Clients, who can sign up for the service at tiqassist.com, “just click ‘list’ on their dashboard, on the game they want to sell, and we take care of everything from there,” he said. The app lists the seats across more than 10 platforms (including Ticketmaster, Vivid Seats, StubHub, SeatGeek, Gametime, etc…) and automatically re-prices the tickets every 10 minutes to account for supply-demand balance. Because the resale marketplaces want to avoid instances of “double-selling,” sellers operating on their own are dissuaded from listing seats on more than one platform. (They face costly penalties for doing so.) TiqAssist can get away with it because it has access to professional ticket reseller tools that automatically delist the tickets from all marketplaces upon a sale. It is worth noting TiqAssist has a minimum resale value requirement for tickets (ranges from $125-$200).
TiqAssist even guarantees the sale. “In the rare event that the tickets haven’t sold within 72 hours of the game, we’ll make a cash offer [at fair market value] for the seats,” Babu said. The CEO said that only occurs about 5% of the time. Ticket holders can list tickets within 72 hours of a game. While they won’t receive a cash offer, the company does still guarantee that the seats will be sold. “A TiqAssist client has never eaten a ticket,” Babu said.
The TiqAssist guarantee is a strong selling point, since market estimates suggest that more than 40% of tickets listed on the secondary marketplace globally will go unsold.
That does not mean the company is going to dump the seats for pennies, either. TiqAssist is motivated to get the most money that it can for its clients’ inventory, because it operates on a commission basis. The more money it takes in, the more money it keeps. “For the most part we charge 25-30%. And keep in mind that [includes] the marketplace fees,” Babu said. That is expensive relative to typical marketplace seller fees (~10%).
The fees and ticket value minimums could be part of the reason the company, which began with three Golden State Warriors season-ticket holders listing seats in September 2017, has only 250 clients nationwide four-plus years later. COVID-19 and standard start-up issues have played a role, too. But Babu thinks TiqAssist has entered growth mode.
The company is not consistently profitable yet (they expect to be by the end of ’22), and it did take on several hundred thousand dollars from friends and family at the outset of the pandemic to streamline technology and scale the business (the growth to that point had been almost exclusively word-of-mouth driven). The company is now capable of selling tickets for any sport, in any city nationwide.
If a season ticket holder is not going to attend every game and is likely to lose money reselling seats to the games they don’t go to (as most individual sellers do), one could argue it makes more sense to buy tickets on a single game or “mini-plan” basis directly from the team. But Babu sees the tangential perks that come along with being a season ticket holder (including the right to buy playoff tickets for face value) and the pride associated with it and believes the investment remains worthwhile. “It’s a romantic idea for die-hard fans,” he said. “Getting season tickets is the pinnacle of the fan experience.”
While “romantic,” owning seasons tickets can become a burden (the average season ticket holder sells thousands of dollars’ worth of seats on the secondary market), which is why we like the idea of a company that adds a service layer to the resale marketplace.