NFL ticket prices have risen sharply this year, up an average of 22% through the first four games of the season. Based on the data, worries that player protests would harm results are unfounded, at least based on what people pay to get into games. Another measure, TV ratings, has been inconclusive.
TicketIQ looked at average prices across all the exchanges it tracks, including the NFL Ticket Exchange. The 22% increase took the average price for an NFL ticket to $247, up from $211 for the same four weeks a year ago.
The only week in which prices rose modestly was Week 4, which was well after the large protests happened. Ticket prices for Week 4 increased 5% to $216. Week 1 ticket prices rose 40% to an average of $286. Week 2 prices were up 21% to $281. Week 3 prices rose 22% to $203. There might be an argument that the 5% increase for Week 4 was in reaction to Week 3 protests, but that cannot be proven. Week 5 prices will be telling.
From the NFL’s standpoint, the worry that ticket prices would collapse is unfounded. Some analysts worried the protests would do more to erode TV ratings, ticket prices and attendance even more than player concussion issues have. NFL ratings have recently been spotty, and in some cases down. However, there is no evidence this is a permanent trend. Week 3 TV ratings were good news for the NFL. According to Sports Illustrated:
How did the controversy surrounding Donald Trump and national anthem protests affect the NFL’s ratings for Week 3?
As of Monday morning, it’s a mixed bad. Ratings for Sunday’s games on CBS, FOX and NBC were down four percent over Week 3 in 2016. However, when the rating for the Cowboys-Cardinals game, to be played Monday night on ESPN, gets factored in, Week 3 of this season is expected to be up over last season.
Ticket prices affect NFL team profits, but not as much as television revenue. Several reports show that the TV revenue pie for the 2016 season was $7.8 billion, up 19% from the previous season. Unlike ticket revenue, NFL teams split TV revenue equally among all 32 teams.
Despite the overarching importance of television sales, ticket prices are a canary in a coal mine. So far, the news from the canary is good.