SBJ/November 17 - 23, 2003/Facilities

Rockets align with Vertical Alliance to take over ticketing responsibilities

The Houston Rockets' ticketing agreement with software company Vertical Alliance at Toyota Center allows the NBA franchise to create and develop what team officials describe as a "private label" by essentially eliminating the middleman and going to an in-house system.

The team did not renew with industry leader Ticketmaster, instead signing a deal with the Norristown, Pa.-based firm that includes distribution through 34 Randalls supermarket outlets. Vertical Alliance also provides ticketing technology for 12 racetracks owned by International Speedway Corp.

"We're excited about what we get, which is controlling the transaction [and] capturing and owning all data," said David Carlock, Rockets vice president of business development. "That is hugely valuable to us. This is one of the few ways to meaningfully impact and grow business." He said the concept is similar to the team's plan to form a regional sports network with the Astros.

Rockets President George Postolos added: "Vertical Alliance is not an e-tail brand. They are not between us and the customer. We have much more control over the message. We want our fans as close to us as possible. We think that's the right way to approach it."

Rockets and Vertical Alliance personnel are each involved in the operational aspects.

The Rockets experienced problems with the call center before the first Toyota Center event, the Oct. 6 Fleetwood Mac concert. There were also reports that the Vertical Alliance system was not compatible with Macintosh computers or ticket buyers using America Online.

"There was an issue with the call center in part attributable to a problem with the telecommunication carrier," said Carlock. "It was not the vendor. It was cleared up quickly and we ended up selling a lot of tickets to Fleetwood Mac. We had favorable attendance compared to venues using Ticketmaster."

Said Postolos: "It's a big job, but in the long term, we can win big. We're determined and committed to do that. There are frequent challenges associated with ticketed experiences. Those complaints are now coming to us. We would rather address those problems."

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Basketball, Houston Rockets

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