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Qcue, Dallas Stars team on dynamic ticket pricing

Algorithms are slowly sinking their grips into sports. The NHL hockey team says it will offer dynamic ticket pricing this season, with the software developer's help.

The National Hockey League franchise Dallas Stars announced on Wednesday that it has partly ditched standard ticket pricing in favor of a dynamic pricing model. Software developer Qcue plans to provide the technology the team needs to adjust prices.

The Dallas Stars have inked a one-year deal with Qcue for it to analyze several factors to determine the right price for each home game. The Stars want to ensure that as many people as possible are attending the team's games. The changes will affect only individual game tickets in the upper level. Season ticket holders and those in the lower level will pay a standard rate for all games.

According to Geoff Moore, Dallas Stars senior vice president of sales and marketing, Qcue's technology analyzes the Stars and its opponents' win-loss records, attendance, stats, opposing players, and more. Standings, supply of tickets left, and attendance also play a part. Combine all those factors (and more), and Qcue's proprietary algorithm spits out the suggested pricing on each seat.

How Qcue determines pricing. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

In order to make the pricing as effective as possible, the Stars have decided that the team will sell tickets in two-month blocks only. The first block, for games in October and November, will be offered on September 12.

As the season progresses, Qcue will continue to tweak its algorithm while adding as much data as possible to the software. Ticket prices will change based on last year's information, as well as this season's performance. Moore believes that selling tickets through Qcue's service is the best way for the Stars to achieve its financial goals.

"Our goal is to increase the number of ticket-buying customers we have," Moore said. "We believe that Qcue's software will increase our revenue, but it's likely that the number of bodies in seats will increase at a much more rapid rate. That's exactly what we want."

Moore was also quick to point out that the team decided to work with Qcue after it saw how well the San Francisco Giants have done with Qcue's dynamic ticket pricing. He couldn't divulge just how well the baseball club was doing with the service, but he said it was impressive enough for the Stars to sign a one-year deal with Qcue.

Fan reaction
One of the biggest potential issues the Stars might face while using Qcue's technology is fan response. Prices swing wildly between games. In fact, Premium terrace seats will be offered for $36 for the Stars' October 14 game. Just two days later, those same seats will be offered for $60. Granted, Dallas plays against Boston the second night, and it's a Friday night, but will a $24 price swing really appeal to fans?

Moore thinks so. And he doesn't believe that $24 is a wild swing. He said that "if there are wild swings, there might be some kickbacks, but we don't plan to have any wild swings." In the end, he said, the Stars' main goal is to "protect season ticket holder value."

The first block of Dallas Stars dynamically priced tickets go on sale on September 12. It should be interesting to see how fans react to the new pricing that day.

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