NFL Making TM Conversion?

While the National Football League’s decision to consider a secondary ticketing contract with one of a handful of companies continues to make news, it looks like a frontrunner has emerged and the deal could be almost as good as done.

Ticketmaster is close to scoring the multiyear partnership with the NFL, a source reportedly familiar with the negotiations told Business Week.

Although the NFL fielded bids from StubHub, viagogo, Ticketmaster, TicketsNow, Seat Exchange and Flash Seats, TM was the only to come close to the league’s asking price, Business Week reported.

The terms of the deal reportedly include an annual fee of $15 million to $20 million for Ticketmaster to sign on as the league’s exclusive partner. However, StubHub is rumored to be considering a counter offer to secure the contract.

"StubHub is naturally interested in a relationship with the NFL, however the buying habits for resold NFL tickets have been largely established and StubHub is already the market leader," spokesman Sean Pate told Pollstar. "For example, the Dallas Cowboys, a current Ticketmaster partner, have one of the most vibrant TicketExchange platforms of any, yet the Cowboys rank as the best selling NFL team on StubHub this season with over 50,000 tickets sold.

"StubHub currently holds secondary rights with eight NFL teams … and will continue those relationships until the contracts expire."

But no matter who inks the secondary ticketing partnership with the league, they’ll still have to play by team rules. The New England Patriots filed suit against StubHub last November claiming the company encourages violations of anti-scalping laws as well as the team’s own rules against reselling tickets for profit.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Boston Globe the Patriots support the league’s deal with an official reseller because individual teams will still be given the opportunity to enforce their own rules.

"The resolution gives each club the ability to ensure that its own club policies relating to tickets are implemented as part of any league secondary ticket deal," Aiello said. "The Patriots have been consistent in their position on their own tickets, but did not want to dictate policies to other clubs."

Many other teams in the league have existing secondary ticketing deals in place. Besides StubHub’s eight contracts, Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange operates for about half of the NFL’s teams and the selected partner could reportedly begin operating as the official league-wide ticket reseller as early as Super Bowl 2008.

The NFL’s move to embrace the secondary market follows that of Major League Baseball, which contracted with StubHub earlier this year. While teams in both leagues spent years battling various resellers, secondary ticketing deals have proven too lucrative to ignore.

A Ticketmaster representative had no comment on the rumored deal.