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2 Trends in Event Tickets

With the Summer concert tours approaching and ticket sales and presales beginning, seems a good time to look at a couple trends in event ticketing:

Trend #1 – Paperless Ticketing:

Airlines realized the cost effectiveness of paperless ticketing a decade ago.  When flying you now check in online, print a boarding pass at home or get it at the gate.  It saves some trees and costs.    The event ticket industry is embracing similar concepts.  

The ticket industry is motivated to go digital not just by cost savings but also, with some offerings, a desire to gain access to the previously lost business opportunity of the secondary ticket markets.  Analysts from Forrester Research estimate that secondary resale market at upwards of $10b/year.  (And that large market size is inclusive of the fact that some states, like Massachusetts, have laws restricting or prohibiting the resale of tickets for profit.  In MA asking more than $2 above face value per ticket is illegal)

A sampling of offerings:

  • Ticketmaster: IAC’s Ticketmaster group has offered a print-your-own ticket option called Ticket Fast for a couple years.  Buyers are emailed a PDF file with a bar-coded ticket image for printout.   In the event of resale, a buyer could email the PDF to another person.  There aren’t, however, digital rights management or security features that prevent multiple print outs.  Theoretically, an unscrupulous seller could resell the same ticket to 5 people and only the first to present it at the gate would get in.  TicketFast also doesn’t give a stake in any resale transactions.
  • Flash Seats:  Flash Seats is a specialty ticket company from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that provides pure electronic ticketing.  Season ticket holders who buy through flash seats swipe a credit card or drivers license at the arena to gain access.  Flash Seats also provides an online market exchange for resale. Ticket holders name their price and Flash Seats takes a 20% service fee as commission.   There’s little concern for counterfeiting or fraud via this mechanism. 
  • The Rest: according to information in an article by Joe Milicia from the Associated Press, spokesman from MLB said 15 clubs including the San Francisco Giants are currently using systems like Flash Seats (who provides the tools was not stated).  In the same article, a spokesman for the NFL said the football league is evaluating the viability of similar technology for its clubs.  Other entrants in the market include Zippline which hopes to marry ticketing to mobile messaging technology.

Paperless tickets make sense for venues (if the technology and infrastructure costs don’t prove prohibitive).  They make sense for ticket sellers by reducing costs.  From the vantage of the fan, there is less motivation to accept change.   I wouldn’t expect a paperless environment any time soon (especially for concerts or theater), but digital tickets have advantages that will help them gain market share particularly with sports.  The hook is especially strong for season ticket holders who would no longer need to manage a large number of tickets.  Additionally, few season ticket holders use all their tickets. There are always a few schedule conflicts for even the most diehard of fans.  The 20% commission with Flash Seats seems large, and there’s competition from online boards like Stub Hub or Razor Gator but the convenience of resale without having to deal with the logistics of delivery or concerns of fraud is worth something.

Trend #2 – 3D Visualization Tools.

When you buy tickets for a concert or a sports event it’s usually disclosed if a seat has a noticeable obstruction but beyond that it’s caveat emptor  - buyer beware!   Your expensive seats may look great on a two dimensional chart but turn out to be horrid….alternately, your cheap seats could turn out to be phenomenal at a venue you’ve never been to.   It’s always a gamble unless you have prior experience.  For those contemplating a mult-thousand dollar season ticket buy it’s nice to have a little more information.  It’s nice, even for a concert, given the sky rocketing costs of tickets in recent years.

3D visualization tools which have been used by real estate brokers to show online walk thru’s of property are now being used to give previews of event seats.  Ballena Technologies, in Alameda California, has been creating 3D visualization maps of various venues and licensing them to various sporting leagues and facilities.  Potential buyers of tickets for some NBA, NHL, NCAA, NFL, MLB and Nascar events (or the venues that operate them) can preview the view in 3D before the buy through either the vendors website or Ballena’s site.

The visualization tools are more than a novelty. I expect they will be increasingly available over the coming year as more and more vendors, venues and teams sign on.

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