Cubs exploring ticket market options

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Cubs were named by StubHub as one of three clubs opting out of a contract extension with the online ticket marketplace on Monday. This was news to the Cubs.

"We're continuing to explore our options," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said.

A Cubs source said the team was surprised to be included in a StubHub email to ticket sellers Monday, because no decision has been made about participating in the five-year contract extension, but the team plans to make an announcement about the secondary market in the near future.

But StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman said the company had delayed the announcement of this deal, which expands the company's relationship with Major League Baseball Advanced Media as the "official fan to fan ticket marketplace," for weeks while waiting for the Cubs' decision.

"From my understanding, they have officially opted out," Lehrman said in a phone conversation. "This is a weird one. It wouldn't surprise us if they ended up back in the deal. The Cubs were trying to delay making a decision. For our purposes, we're considering them out. We have to communicate to our sellers what the story is. They have the option to opt back in. There's no deadline."

ESPNChicago.com reported the Cubs might be opting out in late October, when the team decided not to renew around 1,000 season tickets from suspected scalpers. A Cubs source said the intent was to reallocate tickets to fans on the waiting list.

The Cubs lost 100 games last season for the first time since 1966, and only the third time in team history, and drew fewer than three million fans for the first time since 2003. The Cubs still had an announced attendance of 2,882,756, but no-shows were a major problem, especially late in the season.

Still, the Cubs are looking for a way to maximize revenue on tickets sold in the secondary market, according to a team source, which is one reason why they're still debating their options. The Cubs could use their in-house scalping service, Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services, which faced consumer fraud lawsuits 10 years ago. The Cubs were cleared of any wrongdoing.

So what does this all mean for Cubs fans? Less convenience for season-ticket holders, on one hand. Potentially less fees for buyers and sellers, on the other.

If the Cubs don't have a deal in place, season-ticket holders who place their tickets on StubHub might not be able to resell them electronically. For instance, if a season-ticket holder wants to sell paper tickets, they will have to deliver those tickets. Under the previous and current StubHub deals, fans could reissue tickets through email and the purchasers could print them out. The Cubs will have to address this issue if they choose not to deal with StubHub.

Fans who purchase tickets on the Cubs website will likely still be able to transfer them electronically via StubHub
and the company is adding an office near Wrigley Field. StubHub is also making an increased effort to promote mobile ticket transfers, which Cubs fans could miss out on.

"There's going to be a bigger commitment from mobile from us and BAM (Baseball Advanced Media)," Lerhman said. "People are going to have the ability in a number of stadiums to buy tickets and have them delivered to their phone and use the phone to get in the game. We're started to see so much more traffic and sales through mobile. Twenty percent of our traffic is through mobile. In a few years, our estimate is 50 percent."

The New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels have opted out of the StubHub agreement, which expands the marketing of StubHub in stadiums and online. Those two teams were the most vocal in recent years about the previous deal between MLBAM and StubHub.

A Yankees team official told ESPNNewYork.com that the team felt professional ticket brokers were "shorting" tickets on StubHub, offering them for sale before they were printed and selling them below market value. The Yankees will soon announce a new deal with Ticketmaster.

Lehrman said StubHub has listened to complaints about "bad optics" -- tickets on sale for 99 cents or less, for example -- and implemented an up front pricing model that limits the lowest amount a ticket can sell for at $6.

Previously, a ticket listed for one cent actually cost $10.41 with fees, but it looked like tickets were selling for a penny. The new per-ticket delivery fee is now $2.25 with a maximum of $10 on any purchase.

For the Cubs' season finale, tickets were going for 19 cents on StubHub.

"I got the impression the Cubs were not happy with that," Lehrman said.