The Netflix Generation

Sports Business Journal (SBJ) recently ran a series of articles on the relatively new practice of subscription based ticketing. Most prevalent in major league baseball, fans can sign up for a monthly fee to obtain tickets to various games throughout the month. This program is more flexible for those that don’t know if and when they may want to attend a game (or multiple games) within a certain time frame. So basically you pay a monthly fee to have access to a service that you can use whenever you want it. Sound familiar Netflix fans?

This concept started in MLB in 2015 and last year over 1,000,000 tickets were sold by the 20 baseball teams that employed some form of a subscription based program. So far this season, sales through these programs is trending 36% higher than last year. Other pro franchises in soccer and even the LA Rams have launched subscription based programs. There are even smart phone apps available today that aggregate ticket opportunities in a specific market and put them into a subscription based model. As Irish poet Oscar Wilde once said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Given that others are imitating baseball’s move, we may be on to something here.

The SBJ articles called the users of these services the “Netflix generation of fans.” These are mostly young individual buyers that want a large amount of flexibility and access to unique experiences. Their memberships are an investment in a future event that they can pick and choose from on their own terms, whereas traditional season ticket holders either use that game’s tickets or they expire. I’m sure there are algorithms that can tell you what the optimal strategy is for the teams to deploy when making seats and experiences available. Bottom line, our industry is changing….. And fast.

So how does this trend impact us? If you are an event rights holder, can you offer unique access to your competitions that this younger flexible demographic may like? Can you offer a unique experience such as an athlete meet and greet that would appeal to the Netflix crowd?

If you are a host destination, rather than pushing to sell tickets to an event or two a year you host (which is a traditional transaction based model), can you aggregate all the events you will host this coming year and put them on a subscription based platform? Your locals may love the non-traditional event you host (quidditch, drone racing, esports) or they may like the usual suspects (soccer, basketball, football, baseball). What model could give you some flexibility to garner more annual support in the coming year?

During our time in Denver we tied the limited number of 2008 Frozen Four tickets we had access to as host, to the 2007 West Regional the year prior. You had to buy one to get the other. The result was the highest revenue generating regional and subsequent Frozen Four in NCAA history at that time. That is not quite the same strategy, but the point is we have to think way out of the box today to be relevant.

The old school way of doing things is to trade a ticket for a dollar. Today we have to go much further to stay relevant in the competitive sports and entertainment industry in which we live. If we are to lure the younger generation off the couch (and away from Netflix, Xbox, et al) we have to alter our business model. Get the most creative young people you know in a room with a white board. Talk to them about what they want and what they would pay for. Match that to your event assets and test something new. Test, retool, and repeat. Eventually you may have something that the Netflixers will subscribe to that enhances your organization in a significant way.