As ESPN first reported, the NFL team owners voted on Tuesday to approve a new $55 million deal that will allot 6,000 Super Bowl tickets to be sold as part of bundled packages.
The vendor that will handle the sales, On Location Experiences, is partially owned by the NFL, as well a group of other investors that includes rock music star Jon Bon Jovi. A press release announcing the agreement doesn’t offer any details about pricing or what will be included in purchases, only that the deal “gives On Location the ability to create up to 9,500 fan travel and hospitality packages for the NFL’s premier event.” We’ll find out more specifics sometime in June, when “premium packages” for Super Bowl LI, being held on February 7, 2017, in Houston, officially go on sale.
“What makes this agreement so powerful is that it delivers transparency, certainty and the type of memorable, premium experience fans expect and deserve,” John Collins, CEO of On Location Experiences, said in the press release. “By dealing directly with On Location, the process for fan participation in this premier event is being upgraded from the vague, inconsistent and sometimes unreliable services that have been typically available in the past.”
Speaking on the behalf of the league, Kevin LaForce, the NFL’s senior vice president of corporate development, noted, “We are focused on delivering exceptional value to our fans through a direct and reliable source they can trust.”
Clearly, the quotes above—with the focus on trust, reliability, and transparency—are intended to stand in stark contrast to the chaotic and confusing way that Super Bowl tickets have been sold in the past. For years, most fans have been forced to buy through ticket brokers, who sell seats that they don’t actually possess, while adding huge markups and making a fortune. The shenanigans that took place in the leadup to the Super Bowl in 2015, when the New England Patriots faced the Seattle Seahawks, were particularly shady. Essentially, brokers shorted the market, agreeing to sell tickets at certain prices with the assumption that they’d be able to buy them at a cheaper price at the last minute. Only in 2015, prices never dropped. While some brokers kept their word and sold tickets at a loss, many others cancelled orders and left fans without tickets mere days before the game took place.
To some extent, this situation could still repeat itself with future Super Bowls. The On Location Experiences agreement doesn’t account for all of the tickets being sold, only a few thousand. What’s more, while fans purchasing through On Location Experiences won’t be getting gouged by random ticket brokers, they still very well may be charged a fortune for seats. As mentioned above, the vendor will be selling tickets as part of “premium packages.” Because fans will pay one flat price for a package that might include, say, a hotel, tour, restaurant voucher, or meet-and-greet with football greats, it’s arguable that this sales tactic will also be vague and lack transparency–because it’ll be impossible to pinpoint how much is being charged for each component of the bundle. And considering how astronomically expensive everything is regarding the Super Bowl, it’s all but guaranteed fans will pay through the nose for tickets this way too.
Only this time, because the NFL owns part of the vendor doing the selling, and because it’s making tens of millions upfront because of the terms of the deal itself, the league will be getting a bigger cut of the action.