NEW YORK (MainStreet) — In towns where there are no such thing as a cheap NFL tickets, "cheaper" tickets are a huge score.
NFL fans are already being punished for leaving their cushy, screen-and-snack-filled game day caves, turning off DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket and actually attending games this year. The league's average ticket price jumped 3.5% to more than $84, according to Team Marketing Report. That's nearly triple the cost of the average Major League Baseball ticket ($27.93) and significantly more costly than an average National Basketball Association seat ($52.50) or an in-house look at a National Hockey League game ($61.62). It's also a fairly low figure once you've seen the average cost of the priciest tickets in the league, according to Team Marketing Report's Fan Cost Index:
1. New England Patriots: $122
2. San Francisco 49ers: $117
3. New York Giants: $111.69
4. Dallas Cowboys: $110.20
5. Chicago Bears: $108.44
6. New York Jets: $105.66
7. Washington Redskins: $102
8. Baltimore Ravens: $100.19
9. Philadelphia Eagles: $98.69
10. Houston Texans: $88.98
Those prices are lofty, but they're in no way realistic for most NFL fans. Those are the face-value prices of tickets that largely sold out months ago. The folks at ticket pricing site TiqIq compiled data from the secondary ticket market and sites including eBay-owned StubHub and found average ticket prices far more extreme (and more likely) for fans seeking seats during the regular season. Note the disparity between average face value and average market prices for the top resold tickets:
1. Seattle Seahawks: $452.34 (Average face value: $80.77)
2. New England Patriots: $414.22 (Average face value: $122)
3. San Francisco 49ers: $388.18 (Average face value: $117)
4. New York Giants: $366.34 (Average face value: $111.69)
5. Chicago Bears: $348.99 (Average face value: $108.44)
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: $328.12 (Average face value: $83.97)
7. Dallas Cowboys: $322.28 (Average face value: $110.20)
8. Washington Redskins: $304.19 (Average face value: $102)
9. Baltimore Ravens: $304.19 (Average face value: $100.19)
10. Denver Broncos: $299.84 (Average face value: $87.96)
That looks dire, but there are ways around getting gouged for NFL tickets. Keep in mind that NFL attendance has declined by more than 4% in the past five years as post-recession frugality took hold and fans took advantage of high-definition coverage, DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket out-of-market coverage and league television deals with CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN. A whopping 34 of the 35 most-watched fall television shows of 2013 were NFL games. The only other show among those 35 was NBC's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which came in at No. 22.
According to the NFL, the average game last season drew 17.6 million viewers. Also, 205 million Americans watched at least one NFL game. That's 70% of all potential TV viewers in the U.S., but that's also a lot of people staying at home instead of coming out to the stadium, paying for parking, buying concessions and lining owners' pockets directly.
That means there are occasionally deals to be made. This year, the Patriots and the Detroit Lions introduced variable pricing to compete with secondary market ticket sellers. In the Patriots' case, the team placed a 25% premium on matchups, while knocking 50% off the cost of preseason games and pricing tickets to "reflect the value and expected demand of each game." That takes the opponent, the day of the game, the time of kickoff and the game's place on the schedule into account and adjusts ticket pricing according.
That still doesn't mean a whole lot when tickets are already being sold by a second party. SeatGeek, which has been aggregating secondary-market listings from more than 60 online ticket sites including StubHub and the NFL's official Ticket Exchange since 2009, notes that there are still a few ways to maneuver that costly market.
Fans who can stay patient and wait until 24 to 48 hours before game time will find that tickets are about 30% lower on average than compared with two to three weeks before a game day. Even a week before the game, tickets cost 18% to 20% more than they will within a day or two of kickoff.
Also, as SeatGeek notes, fans should be open to trading their 50-yard-line television-style view for a seat in the corner or in one of the end zones. Those corner tickets just behind the 20-yard lines average 34% less than midfield tickets, while the average end-zone ticket is 42% less expensive than a lower-level seat on the 50.
Fans also shouldn't be afraid to use the schedule to their advantage. Last season, the San Diego Chargers nearly had to black out a Monday Night Football on local television when the team failed to sell enough tickets for its matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. Not only could fans still get tickets at face value, but they were in rare position to negotiate a better price and get even lower prices from second-party vendors. If fans are willing to brave the cold and potential snow in Buffalo, the weather and the team's performance of late have made Bills tickets — and television blackouts — plentiful in December.
In fact, SeatGeek recommends traveling to another market to get cheaper tickets. While that may not be such an alluring proposition in fairly isolated Seattle or Denver, New England Patriots fans who'll pay $110 minimum for nosebleed seats to watch their team play the Bills just before the playoffs in Foxborough on Dec. 28 can get a better view of their team by taking a road trip to Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium on Oct. 12. Slightly lower tier tickets there can be hand for less than $100. Steelers fans, meanwhile, can be relegated to the top tiers of Heinz Field to watch a matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals with potential playoff implications on Dec. 28, or they can take the 260-mile trip to Cincinnati three weeks earlier and use that same $100 to get corner seats in the lower bowl at Paul Brown Stadium.
If fans are patient, flexible, willing to travel and, in some cases, open to braving the elements, there are deals to had in the NFL. They aren't great, but they beat paying several times the full price of a ticket just for the privilege of watching a game that's on television for free at home.
— Written by Jason Notte for MainStreet.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.
>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/notteham.
>To submit a news tip, send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.