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NBA finals ticket prices soar due to ‘tremendous demand’: StubHub expert

StubHub Ticket Expert Adam Budelli sits down with Yahoo Finance Live to explain the rise in ticket prices for the NBA finals, the outlook on the live event market, pre-pandemic ticket-buying trends, and legislation on all-in ticket pricing.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: The season, for two teams, is not over, the Finals kicking off this week, the first game in the books, your Boston Celtics, Josh, came out on top. Let's talk about what this means for ticket prices, what we could see over the next couple of weeks. And for that, we want to bring in Adam Budelli. He is a StubHub's ticket expert.

And Adam, the price of tickets skyrocketing. What are you seeing?

ADAM BUDELLI: Yes, I mean, there's certainly tremendous demand right now out there for this NBA Finals. Two huge fan bases, East Coast, West Coast. I mean, if the NBA could draw it up, this certainly would be a match-up that they would like to have.

So the Warriors, here we are games one and two here in San Francisco. First time making a true playoff run at the Chase Center. And for the Celtics, this is big for their fans. They haven't had a NBA Finals since 2010. So certainly, we've actually seen a lot more demand in Boston for games three and four there, currently outpacing the stylist here at San Francisco four games one last night and then this Sunday for game two.

- Adam, when we talk about ticket prices, how much does location matter maybe more so than the fan base? And I mean that, because when you look at last year, Milwaukee, the fans were crazy there, right? They had 60,000 people outside the stadium, watching the game. But the average ticket price never went over $1,000 in Milwaukee.

I'm curious if it has to do with San Francisco, Boston, expensive places to live. The consumers are used to paying more. Does that drive up the price at all?

ADAM BUDELLI: Absolutely. And the other big piece too you need to look at is what the face value of the ticket costs. So in San Francisco, I know some of those lower level tickets that you're seeing being listed for very high prices. They start at around $1,000 per game.

So even at the beginning side, if you're a season ticket holder, your price is significantly higher than you would traditionally see in other markets. Add in fact, the Bay Area, Boston, traditionally a lot more financial institutions. It certainly helps drive the price up.

- And it's been about a year now we've been talking about the return to live events, the excitement. It seems like some of these fans would pay anything to get in a stadium, right, over the last year. Have we've seen the top of that market though? And especially when we're talking about the price pressures now with inflation, it costs a lot to get a gallon of gas or a gallon of milk, do you think that we're not going to see fans willing to pay as much as we get into maybe next season or throughout the summer?

ADAM BUDELLI: Hard to predict. I think the live events industry as a whole, depending on what you're specifically looking at, there is a wide kind of range. If you look at the concert market currently, when you compare the amount of events between Memorial Day and Labor Day this year, it's twice as many in 2019. So although the prices are staying relatively the same, a lot of that's probably due to the amount of concerts they have.

So when you do look at an NBA Finals or potentially now an NHL Finals starting in a couple of weeks from now, when there's only one event out there, the demand seems to really stay high. And again, a lot of it will have to be a matter of markets next year and what teams are there.

Certainly, you saw a little fatigue for the Warriors fans. As you've been to five Finals, you start being will to play less and less. But in Boston, again, you haven't been there in 12 years, because their last kind of long postseason run there was in the bubble. So their fans are certainly coming out and clearly willing to spend a little bit more than the San Francisco audience so far.

SEANA SMITH: Well, Adam, Josh is a Celtics fan. I don't know if he's willing to spend $1,000 for a takeaway.

- Not quite, Seana, not quite.

SEANA SMITH: I know, we're not quite there, yeah. But maybe, maybe someday. I don't know, if they make it back in a few years. But Adam, zooming out from just sports, because there's also concerts, live events, people really showing an appetite to go to these type of events. In terms of what you're seeing on StubHub, the level of activity, how does that compare right now to those pre-pandemic levels?

ADAM BUDELLI: Yes. I mean, overall, just the level of what we're seeing from visits and people searching on our site is significantly higher. Again, I mentioned the landscape in itself is two times greater than it was in 2019.

The other thing to think about it kind of helps keep the prices, I think, relatively flat is that some of these artists are adding additional shows because they didn't have a chance to tour over the past couple of years. You'd see a little bit more in concert in theater where there were restrictions being more heavily impacted being indoor versus Major League Baseball or the NFL, where they opened up much sooner with their outdoor.

So overall, the landscape, I think, is fantastic. It'll be interesting to see, one or two years from now, what that landscape looks like from the quantity of live events. But certainly right now, our data is showing that fans want to get out there. And they're willing to play-- excuse me-- pay a premium to be back and enjoy live events with their friends and family.

- And Adam, I did want to ask you about a little bit of news of the day here. New York passed a law today that's awaiting governor approval that's going to require ticketing companies to have all-in pricing, so there'll be no fees added or anything like that. The price that you see is the price that you pay. How does that sort of impact your business? And do you think that's going to be industry-wide, statewide eventually?

ADAM BUDELLI: Always hard to predict. What I can say is that we have a great government relations team that stays up to date on all of these. So certainly, we'll make sure that, whether city, state, or federal law comes up with, we'll be compliant with that.

New York is unique. There already are quite a few different rules and regulations there that are different than other states. So this is something new. And we'll be willing to work with them and our partners in the state to ensure that fans have a safe place to be able to buy and sell tickets.

SEANA SMITH: Adam Budelli of StubHub, thanks so much for joining us. And of course, our thanks to Josh Shafer as well.