Owners OK On Location Experiences to sell Super Bowl packages

A group licensed by the NFL will begin selling Super Bowl tickets as part of packages to the big game next month, offering fans the first chance to buy seats to the league's title game eight months before it is played.

At Tuesday's meetings in Charlotte, North Carolina, owners voted to authorize a deal to sell 6,000 tickets that had been part of the participating teams' allotment to On Location Experiences.

Sources said On Location Experiences -- which last year secured a license for Super Bowl-related business -- bought into the nine-year deal for an up-front fee of about $55 million. That does not include the face value of every ticket, which On Location will pay back to the league.

Along with tickets at each price point, the company -- through a newly developed website to debut next month -- will sell experiences never offered before, including on-field pregame and postgame opportunities.

The move was done in part because the league wanted to have more control over what was offered before the chaos of the Super Bowl sets in.

Teams have, in the past, sold sponsorships to companies like PrimeSport, which, in exchange for an up-front payment, received thousands of Super Bowl tickets from the sponsored team if it went to the big game. But PrimeSport controlled a lot of the inventory and only was able to offer it in the days before the game once the matchup was set and the team released the tickets.

"The Super Bowl has been a $100 million opportunity controlled by the brokers," said John Collins, CEO of On Location Experiences. "We're hoping, through this deal, to provide transparency and clarity to a marketplace that frankly has been difficult to navigate for the fan."

The deal will also minimize the game's short-selling market, which started to affect the league.

With physical distribution of Super Bowl tickets only occurring within the week before the game, short sellers -- who sold Super Bowl tickets without having them in hand, with the goal to buy them at the last minute for cheaper than they promised them -- had capitalized for years.

That was until Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, when too many ticket brokers shorted the game and last-minute prices to just get into the stadium approached $10,000. Many brokers reneged after selling tickets -- which they didn't have in hand -- weeks before for lower prices.

With each participating team's Super Bowl ticket inventory now being reduced from 12,000 to 9,000 seats, season-ticket holders might think they now have even less of a chance to get face-value tickets through the team.

Kevin LaForce, the NFL's senior vice president of corporate development, said that's not the case, because the inventory that will be taken off the top is inventory teams were giving to brokers and companies like PrimeSport.

LaForce said part of the deal agreed to Tuesday assures that On Location Experiences will hold back 2,000 packages for fans of the two Super Bowl teams.

Collins said his company will sell a wide array of ticket offerings and that the resulting business won't necessarily result in higher prices to fans because other parts of the travel experience -- notably airfare and hotel -- will benefit from lower prices by guaranteeing vendors a higher volume than smaller tour groups could.

"This deal allows us to offer a much better experience for fans," LaForce said. "For those fans who always had it on their bucket list to go to a Super Bowl, now you can go online in June, buy your tickets, hotel and airfare and be done with it."

If the program works, the NFL will benefit even more. The league owns 16 percent of On Location and can buy another 4 percent as part of the deal, sources said.