Fewer Fans Attending College Football Games, With SEC Experiencing Biggest Decline


College football attendance declined -3% in 2017, the most significant drop in 34 years and 2018 isn’t expected to be much better; Dynamic Pricing Partners is claiming that overall ticket sales for NCAA football are down -19% YoY “across many P5 programs”. Contributing to the decline has been a recent (last 5 years) trend of fewer fans following their team on the road, a fate that not even SEC schools have been able to avoid; SEC schools reported 2,433 fewer fans/game last year, the biggest decline amongst P5 conferences. Florida A.D. Scott Stricklin acknowledged the decline before suggesting a solution, “I think you’re going to see an adjustment around the country where stadiums are going to reduce capacity to make the seating better for fans.”

Howie Long-Short: A depressed market for college football ticket sales doesn’t bode well for StubHub, a company coming off a disappointing 2nd quarter. eBay (EBAY) blamed StubHub’s Q2 ticket sales decline on the low number of games played within the NBA Finals (4) and Stanley Cup (5) and “a historically bad MLB start of the season.” While both are valid reasons, StubHub isn’t expecting sales to dramatically increase in H218; which would seemingly contradict their reasoning.

StubHub struggles are far more likely the result of competitors Live Nation and Vivid Seats taking a greater percentage of market share, teams/musicians taking greater control of their markets and a crackdown on secondary market ticketing fees in the U.K. Those aren’t issues that can be solved with a little luck.

StubHub’s short-term outlook forced EBAY to lower full year revenue forecasts; shares are down -9% (to $34.43) since the company reported on July 18th.

Fan Marino: SEC A.D.’s blame everything from the familiarity of the competition (caused by having 2 divisions), to the allotment of bad seats for the visiting team, to modern technology and the comforts of watching at home for the attendance decline, but they’re all in agreement that “people aren’t traveling the way they used to.” That’s a shame, because many college towns (and the small businesses within) rely on the economic activity generated on home football weekends.

As for Stricklin’s projection, I’m 100% in agreement. The next generation of stadiums are going to be more intimate/exclusive. They’ll need to be as the experience of watching has become a particularly compelling alternative with the addition of 4K and the increasing popularity of 2nd screen viewing.

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