Could faster baseball games in 2023 inspire more ticket sales? StubHub spokesperson Adam Budelli said it’s too soon to glean much from the numbers, but the reseller is hopeful MLB’s new speed-it-up rules eventually influence more people to come to the park.
“The rules certainly can affect ticket sales,” Budelli said. “We have seen spring training games resulting in faster pace games and more stolen bases. So, as that kind of narrative continues to hit the regular season, (we’ll) see how that plays out. We certainly expect that shorter, faster games may start appealing more to the weeknight games that typically tend to be a little bit more affordable than the weekends because of … school nights or work nights, things like that.”
The sport’s switch to a balanced schedule, with fewer inter-division games in 2023, has the potential to diminish some ticket sales. The Red Sox and Yankees won’t play each other 18 times anymore. But there’s potential for some of the new interleague series to draw fans who otherwise might have stayed home.
Opening Day always does well, but entering Wednesday, StubHub’s top two Opening Day matchups were both interleague slates: Blue Jays at Cardinals, and Giants at Yankees.
“You typically would never see San Francisco Giants at the New York Yankees for Opening Day,” Budelli said. “That probably doesn’t happen without some of these rules, changes to expand … the different teams that you can play.”
In 2022, the Atlanta Braves were StubHub’s top-selling MLB team overall. Their ticket sale numbers this year are 50 percent higher than last year, and yet they’ve fallen into the second spot, behind the Yankees, who have sold 25 percent more than Atlanta so far.
The top 10 is big-market heavy:
- New York Yankees
- Atlanta Braves
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Boston Red Sox
- Philadelphia Phillies
- New York Mets
- Chicago Cubs
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Diego Padres
- San Francisco Giants
Notably missing are the Houston Astros, the team that’s made two consecutive World Series and won the last one. Nonetheless, StubHub sees a link between ticket sales and recent success, as well as offseason roster-building efforts. The Cardinals, Phillies and Padres account for 20 percent of the league’s total sales on the platform. In the week after Trea Turner signed with the Phillies in December, their sales doubled.
So far, three teams have sold tickets to fans in all 50 of the United States on StubHub: the Cubs, Red Sox and Yankees.
Perhaps the most interesting numbers the company has compiled point to the sport’s international appeal. Buyers from 45 different countries have bought 2023 tickets. (The Yankees have drawn buyers from 26 countries, the highest mark for an individual team.)
The league is returning to London again this season, with a two-game series between the Cardinals and Cubs on June 24-25. That series, though, has been eclipsed by MLB’s first-ever regular-season series in Mexico City, between the Giants and Padres on April 29-30. StubHub reports the Mexico City series is outselling the London series by 40 percent on their platform.
But the Mexico City series is also drawing more people from within the U.S.: 42 percent of sales, compared to 36 percent for the London series.
“A lot of that could be potentially tied to just San Francisco and San Diego being here on the West Coast with strong ties in the Mexico region. We just saw that with the San Francisco 49ers playing down there,” Budelli said. “We do anticipate the London series will probably catch up and continue to grow as well as that series approaches.”
Travel time seems to play a role in other ways. The No. 1 international market so far has been the United Kingdom, per sales from Viagogo, which is StubHub’s international marketplace. Japan, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands finish out the top five.
That the U.K. would hold the top spot might be counterintuitive, considering Japan has a much more prominent professional baseball scene. Japan also has a megastar in Shohei Ohtani, and 70 percent of tickets sold to Japanese buyers on StubHub are for Angels games. Yet Budelli wasn’t surprised that the U.K. is ultimately producing more buyers than Japan.
“Japan’s a little bit further,” he said. “We do see a lot of people from the U.K. just jump across, many, many fan bases right there (on the East Coast). And then if they’re hitting the West Coast, there’s so many different teams that you’re going to be seeing in these areas. So from just a pure travel perspective, we think it makes sense.”
Commissioner Rob Manfred pointed out this spring it’s the first season where MLB has had a normal spring training in quite some time, following the lockout, the pandemic and even the Astros sign-stealing scandal. StubHub sees it similarly, particularly given how reticent some people were to go to live events for a time: “We’re returning back to pre-pandemic travel and total sales,” Budelli said.
(Photo: Brad Penner / USA Today)