Soccer Business Bits: Season Ticket Numbers, Digital Success & More

timbers ticketsThe most recent edition of the Sports Business Journal presented its annual in-depth look in advance of the 2013 season.  One article in the section included interviews with a number of MLS Presidents and front office personnel.  Among the questions asked of the panel was direct inquiry about season ticket sales.  Although the question didn’t make a distinction between season tickets and season ticket equivalents, the numbers were instructive.  Among the numbers shared in the report:  New England, 4-5k, Chivas USA, 2,500, Houston 12k, RSL at 10k and Colorado at 4k.  San Jose is also at 5k, but they expect to double that number when they move to their new stadium.  Some other notes from the ticket figures, include a note that RSL has gone from 4k before Rio Tinto, to 8,700 last year to the 10k now.  One other impressive increase comes courtesy of Houston which doubled its numbers with the move to BBVA Compass.

Chris Scholsser is the czar of MLS media and provided some interesting numbers about the league’s digital success over the weekend.  Perhaps most impressive is the numbers that suggest MLS Live Subscriptions are up 131% over last year.  While the percentages can be misleading without the hard numbers, it is certainly true that MLS Live is a great product and an invaluable tool for fans of the league.

One final business note comes from Miami, from where rumors have been circulating over the last couple of days about the possibility of expansion.  The league recently dispelled the rumors while keeping the window open a crack about the possibility of a team in the long term.  At this point in the world of MLS expansion, Orlando seems like the more likely Florida expansion candidate.

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MLS Season Ticket Renewals Up for 2010

Tripp Mickle of the Sports Business Journal is out with a hard look at MLS season ticket renewals for 2010.  Although three teams (Dallas, Kansas City and San Jose), didn’t provide numbers, the rest of the franchises did report their rates of renewal for 2010.  Not surprisingly, Seattle and TFC lead the pack with more than 90% renewal rates.  Perhaps also not surprisingly, New England trails the pack as the only reporting team below 50% at a dismal 30%.  With the Red Bull Arena ready to open, New York posted an impressive 85%

The biggest suprise was Colorado, where at least 70% of season ticket holders have renewed.  This compares very favorably with the rest of the League, where most teams hover in between 50-65%.  These numbers will obviously rise as the season nears, but according to Mickle, renewals rates are ahead of last year and are averaging just over 60% league wide.  Mickle also reported that teams are offering new incentives to attract fans and keep their hard care base.

New England and Dallas remain enormous disappointments (in fairness, we are making a bit of an assumption on Dallas, as their numbers aren’t available).  Attendance is declining in both cities as is interest.  Both teams seem to need a re-boot and re-brand.  New England’s playoff attendance was embarrassing for MLS, a fact that didn’t escape Don Garber in his State of the League address who in referenced the success in Seattle and the playoff attencance success in the Conference Finals.  “That was an important lesson to our clubs, particularly some of the clubs that have been around for a while and are struggling in their markets.”

This report is a great sign for MLS.  In the current economy, convincing fans to re-up months before the start of the season provides a level of economic stability for the League and shows that the biggest fans remain interested in MLS.  Moreover, the evident success of the newest franchises speaks volumes about the ability of the expansion teams to learn from the mistakes of those that went before.  If the numbers continue to climb until March 2010, with the entrance of Philadelphia and opening of Red Bull Arena, 2010 promises to be a great year for the League

QUICK UPDATE:  According to the Revs official online community forums, per COO Brian Bilello:

“Just wanted to clarify around the Season Ticket Renewal numbers in SBJ today. While it is true that we were near the 30% mark a few weeks go when they pulled their numbers, we are now north of 50% and are ahead of last year at this time. Part of the reason that we lagged behind is due to the fact that our early renewal deadline is later than most teams so our renewals come in a little later. We give our fans until11/30 to renew and get the early renewal discount. We feel it gives our STH more flexibility and let’s them hold onto their money a little longer rather than making them renew in August or September.”