MLB renews deal with StubHub

CHICAGO -- Major League Baseball Advanced Media and StubHub.com announced a new five-year deal Monday that continues the website's role as the official secondary ticket market for the sport while eliminating the cheap listings that had become an eyesore for some clubs.

The minimum price for baseball tickets on StubHub in 2013 will be $6, a far more appealing number for the league after some seats were listed for pocket change during the first five-year deal that expired after this past season.

The $6 ticket includes commissions and the delivery fee for the website, which previously charged customers at least $10.40 after they selected their seats.

"The bottom line is that we felt like for both our fans and for our teams there was an optics issue," StubHub spokesman Glenn Lehrman said. "In other words, there was a lot of chatter about .99 tickets, cheap tickets, and the reality is that's not what the ticket was selling for."

StubHub calls including the fees in the ticket listing an "all-in pricing model," and Lehrman said the San Francisco-based company has been testing the system on the website all year long, mostly with Major League Soccer games. The plan is to implement the new format across the site by the end of 2013.

Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLBAM, the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball, praised StubHub for working with them to address their concerns. But the changes weren't enough for the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs, three teams that opted out of the deal.

"We're continuing to explore our options in the secondary ticket market," said Julian Green, the vice president for communication and community affairs with the Cubs.

A Cubs source, however 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 Lehrman said the company had delayed the announcement of this deal for weeks while waiting for the Cubs' decision.

"From my understanding, they have officially opted out," Lehrman said. "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."

The Yankees and Angels are working with Ticketmaster on a new arrangement, according to a person familiar with the situation, and will announce their plan in a few weeks. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

Fans will still be able to purchase tickets for the three missing teams on StubHub. The biggest difference involves the sellers, who will have to type in the ticket information and use a different way to get the ticket to the buyer for the home games of the Yankees, Cubs and Angels.

Bowman said he thinks the ticket integration for the teams covered by the deal is good for fans, but the decision by the three teams that opted out gives them a chance to take a look at other models for the secondary ticket market.

"They are doing what they think is in their best interests and what's in their fans' best interest and it's our job to work with them and get them to a good spot," he told the AP in a phone interview.

Bowman also said some teams are going to experiment with the blackout window before games. Most teams stop ticket sales on the site two hours before the game, and a handful of clubs are going to experiment with a six-hour period next year.

StubHub struck one of its first major sports deals with the Seattle Mariners in 2001 and has separate partnership agreements with about half of the 30 major league teams, covering everything from signage to promotions. It became the "Official Fan to Fan Ticket Marketplace" for MLB.com in 2007.

"This partnership broke new ground when it was first introduced, and it has allowed us to greatly improve the StubHub MLB fan experience," StubHub President Chris Tsakalakis said in a release. "The opportunity for StubHub to continue to partner with MLBAM is something we relish, especially as we look to continuously integrate new technology that will enhance the experience, particularly on mobile devices, for baseball fans."

Under StubHub's new pricing model, customers will pay a $2.25 delivery fee per ticket up to $10. That's compared to a flat $5.40 delivery fee before. The service fee was lowered to $3 for tickets under $50, and is a percentage of the price above that number.

"Our original StubHub partnership provided a valuable service, giving fans a secure, simple and affordable solution for the secondary market, and this renewal reflects its successes in an ever-evolving space," Bowman said.

Information from ESPNChicago.com's Jon Greenberg and The Associated Press was used in this report.