‘The Book of Mormon’ Inks Deal with StubHub.com

The Book of Mormon now officially sells tickets on StubHub.com.

Since its opening in 2011, the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon has been selling out its houses at the 1,006 seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre.  With rampant demand for the satirical musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q writer Bobby Lopez, the show has regularly seen premium ticket prices as high as $477.  The show’s lead producers Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino have often been at the cutting edge of strategies to maximum their ticket revenue, utilizing dynamic pricing to vary ticket prices throughout the house in line with demand.  As of just week ago, they have announced a new partnership that changes the game for the Broadway ticket marketplace: they will now sell tickets on StubHub.com.

Book of Mormon and Stubhub join forces

Book of Mormon and StubHub.com  join forces

StubHub.com, an online ticket marketplace owned by eBay, has grown from America’s largest secondary-market ticket marketplace to the world’s largest ticket marketplace.  The secondary market for tickets refers to when tickets are re-sold, often at a higher amount than their original price, especially when the primary ticket sellers have sold out their inventory.  Another example of a secondary-market ticket site is TicketsNow.com, which is an acquired subsidiary of Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster often redirects its customers to TicketsNow.com when the original inventory is sold out, which is effectively the same thing as selling tickets at a higher price through the same outlet.  Critics of secondary market ticket sites consider them to be just another form of scalping, and thus the legality of such sites is often questioned.

In an unprecedented move for Broadway, The Book of Mormon has decided to utilize StubHub.com as another outlet to sell their higher priced premium tickets.  In this way, StubHub will not be functioning as a secondary ticket marketplace, but rather a primary ticketing outlet.  Presently, the primary ticketing outlet for Broadway shows is more often than not Telecharge.com, which is owned by the Shubert Organization, one of the major Broadway landlords.  Therefore, this decision will present StubHub as a direct competitor to Telecharge.

It is common for producers to turn to additional outlets to help move their inventory, yet this is generally done in the form of discount ticket sales.  When sales are slow for a certain show, producers will often offer lower priced tickets either by direct mail to potential ticket buyers’ homes, or through online promotions by email or on websites.  However, the decision to sell premium seats for this hot-ticket show specifically through StubHub is an interesting maneuver, especially as the StubHub customer base may not be accustomed to seeing theatre options on the site.  StubHub’s biggest business comes from the music and sports industries, and this will present a Broadway option to this largely untapped audience.  On the other hand, the advantage from StubHub’s point of view is that it will help shift their reputation from that of a glorified online scalper to a more legitimate ticket sales outlet.

In any case, this novel approach presents an interesting dilemma for the Shuberts, who own Telecharge.com.  If premium tickets can be sold directly though secondary outlets commonly known for scalping tickets, there is a grey area between the primary and secondary market ticket outlets that had not previously existed for the Broadway marketplace.  If they neglect the opportunity to invest in secondary outlets, like Ticketmaster did with TicketsNow, then they might very well be losing profits in the long run.  Still, for now, The Book of Mormon’s new partnership will be a noteworthy case study to see if the StubHub customer base opens up new avenues for premium Broadway ticket sales.

Seating Options Abound For Book of Mormon Tickets – But A Scant Few Tickets Are Actually Available

More than a year after it won its Tony Award for Best Musical, The Book of Mormon remains Broadway’s monster hit, completely selling out performances several months in advance. The recent departure of original cast members Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells (soon to appear on TV shows 1600 Penn and The New Normal, respectively) hasn’t made a dent in sales either, since The Book of Mormon is the rare Broadway musical where members of the behind-the-scenes creative team (i.e. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone) are more famous than the people onstage.

Needless to say, The Book of Mormon tickets continue to be challenging to purchase. If you want The Book of Mormon tickets, you better be prepared to make your theater-going plans way in advance (are you free in the summer of 2013 by any chance?). Making matters more complicated is that The Book of Mormon‘s official ticket seller, Telecharge, is now utilizing a surprisingly complicated seating structure. When searching for The Book of Mormon tickets on Telecharge.com, you have the option to search by section (see image on the left). In the past, these drop-down menus might show 6-8 sections to choose from, but now The Book of Mormon is an example of a Broadway show that offers roughly two dozen options.

While this lengthy seating breakdown creates the illusion of choice, the reality is that the pricing options for The Book of Mormon tickets are extremely limited. The available regular ticket prices for The Book of Mormon are $69 rear mezzanine, partial view for $145-$165, and everything else in the $155-$175 ticket range. On that entire list of seating choices, only the Mezzanine Rows J-L gets you the $69 tickets. (By the way, the premium seats on that list will run you $250-$477 each.) Another popular Broadway musical, Jersey Boys, has a similar set-up, with numerous seating choices but limited price points. Meanwhile, a show like End of the Rainbow, which is struggling to fill seats, shows far fewer seating choices, but a slightly wider variety of pricing options.

One possible reason for the increasingly detailed seat offerings for popular Broadway shows is customer demand. When searching for The Book of Mormon tickets on Telecharge, you can just leave it on the default ‘Best Available’ setting to be given whatever Telecharge has determined are the best seats. But with Broadway ticket prices at all-time highs (especially for hit musicals like The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys), buyers feel that if they are paying $155 for a ticket, they should at least be able to choose what row they want to sit in. The incredibly high demand for tickets, though, gives The Book of Mormon producers little reason to charge anything less than an arm and a leg — except for throwing ticket buyers a little bone by offering a few rear mezzanine rows at $69 (which of course sell out very quickly).

The complex seating breakdown for The Book of Mormon tickets also highlights the problem with Telecharge’s online ticketing system. Unlike Ticketmaster, which now lets you easily view and select the precise seats that you want from a seating chart, Telecharge leaves ticket buyers flailing in the dark, attempting to get the system to pull up desirable seats. Having a detailed list of seat row ranges at least allows buyers to choose their preferred seating sections with greater accuracy. Then again, with a sell-out show like The Book of Mormon, customers often find that there isn’t anything available in their selected row anyway. The truth of the matter is that, for big Broadway hits, you often have to settle for whatever is available — or else pay the premium ticket prices.

Book of Mormon Regular Tickets Price Blows By Broadway’s $150 Ticket Milestone

Book of Mormon Tickets Increase

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s The Book of Mormon recently crossed the great ticket price divide by increasing its regular-priced orchestra and front mezzanine tickets to $155.
The Premium ticket prices remain unchanged at $300 – $350.
This now makes Book Of Mormon the most expensive ticket on Broadway in history.

Clearly this move is a response to the strong ticket sales and the continued love-fest of ticket broker speculation towards the sold-out show. The last time a milestone like this was broken was back in 2002 when Wicked blew by the $100 mark and never went back, much to the chagrin of Broadway fans.

The Book of Mormon may be suffering from irrational exuberance and may run the risk of overselling its position and with over 40% of all its tickets being sold to ticket brokers, Book of Mormon could suffer a painful crash in ticket sales if ticket speculation cools abruptly when ‘the next big thing’ materializes, since ticket brokers and speculators are notoriously fickle and have no brand loyalty other than to what is ‘hot’ and selling well. The scheduled regional tour of The Book of Mormon could dilute the aftermarket ticket value of the show and become a catalyst to force the ticket brokers to ‘short’ their ticket inventory and flood the market, possibly resulting in empty seats in the theater — giving the appearance that the show is on the wane, even though 100% of the tickets have actually been sold.  Once the public’s “perception” is that a show is on the wane, it could change the Book of Mormon ticket ticket landscape dramatically – All Broadway shows like a soft landing in sales, ticket crashes are bad for business, affecting audience, producers and ticket brokers.

Historically speaking, there are many other Broadway show examples that have suffered through this process of over-hyped ticket speculation by brokers, only to crash out quickly.  But more recent examples like Jersey Boys didn’t quite dampen to the extent anticipated and the show sales buoyed after the other major city fixed shows opened and the regional tour began.

The higher ticket cost for The Book of Mormon does, however, provide the Broadway show producers more of the profit, reduces the ticket brokers’ profit, and allows the show to break even more quickly.

Having said that, Broadway shows still provide a great value proposition when compared with other entertainment choices in NYC. With a 3D movie now costing $20 person, the live entertainment of a Broadway show is like having a live performance up close and personal, with a noteworthy Broadway (or Hollywood) actor in your living room, for around $100.