The Rising Ticket prices in the Staples Center

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Yesterday, Dre took a look at the changing fortunes of the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams. Given that both teams have played in the same city and arena since the 1999-2000 season, the situation offered a natural experiment. Dre’s basic point was that — despite a long history of famously terrible play — the Clippers’ attendance has increased over the last couple of seasons thanks to a better on-court product. At the moment, attendance at Clippers games is even ahead of attendance at Lakers games, who are only three seasons removed from back-to-back championship wins (although Dre later pointed out that the Clippers squeeze a few more spectators in each game).

We had several commenters (Mike, THE Bob, Penberthyfor3, and even our own Dave Berri) point out that we should also examine ticket prices. The Lakers have notoriously expensive tickets and yet still rank near the top in terms of attendance. While the Clippers’ attendance has increased over the past few seasons, how does their ticket revenue compare to that of the Lakers?

First let’s take another look at attendance:

  Attendance
Team 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
LA Lakers 778,777 702,889 664,895
LA Clippers 727,462 691,524 691,761
Difference 51,315 11,365 -26,866

Remember that the 2011-12 season was shortened from 82 to 66 games, so the number of home games declined from 41 to 33 games. And the 2012-13 season has not yet completed, so there are still home games left to play. But the trend is clearly in favour of the Clippers.

Moving on to ticket prices:

  Average Ticket Price ($)
Team 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
LA Lakers 95.25 99.25 100.25
LA Clippers 51.47 51.47 63.10
Difference 43.78 47.78 37.15

These numbers represent the average ticket prices over the past three seasons, as reported by Fan Cost Experience. It’s important to note that Team Marketing Report — the organization behind the Fan Cost Experience — uses “‘non-premium’ season ticket pricing for its survey, which excludes suites, seats that come with added amenities (club access) and highly-expensive floor seats.” That means that these numbers likely underestimate the edge that the Lakers have in this area. That being said, the Lakers’ prices haven’t really moved in the last three seasons, whereas the Clippers’ prices have increased significantly.

When we put both of these tables together and calculate ticket revenue (simplified as [attendance] x [average ticket price]), this is what we get:

Ticket Revenue ($)
Team 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13
LA Lakers $74,178,509 $69,761,733 $66,655,724
LA Clippers $37,442,469 $35,592,740 $43,650,119
Difference $36,736,040 $34,168,993 $23,005,605

The Lakers have a huge lead over the Clippers when it comes to ticket revenue — and remember, this is without including those non-premium seats. But that gap is shrinking quickly. The Clippers should (and probably will) increase their ticket prices significantly next season to capitalize on the increased demand, so I expect their upward trend to continue. And don’t count out the fact that the Lakers may have to start dropping some prices if they don’t do well in this season’s playoffs and decide to blowup their roster.

- Devin

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