SBJ/October 16 - 22, 2006/This Weeks News

Teams watching Cavs’ paperless ticketing

Sports ticketers are focusing their attention on Cleveland, where the Cavaliers last week became the first major league team to activate paperless ticket transactions.

Participating season-ticket holders sell
their extras through the Flash Seats site.
The move comes after Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert acquired a small startup company called Flash Seats over the summer. It features technology allowing season-ticket holders to gain admission and buy, sell and transfer tickets online by using information stored in a driver’s license or credit card.

The Cavaliers eventually could lease the Flash Seats technology to other NBA teams.

The Phoenix Suns are interested and “entertained the company’s pitch last year” when Flash Seats was independently owned, said John Walker, Suns vice president of business development. Suns executives may take a special trip to Cleveland to see Flash Seats in action, Walker said.

“Its time is coming. We just didn’t want to be the first,” he said. “There is a cultural shift when there are no tickets in people’s hands.”

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, always at the forefront of new technology, thinks going paperless is a great idea, especially in the secondary ticket market.

“How it works for any given team depends on the demand it has for tickets,” he said via e-mail. “The Cavs obviously have a lot of demand and want to serve their customers as best they can.”

The system provides what the Cavaliers think is the safest secondary ticketing option for their clients, said Chad Estis, the Cavs’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

“By taking away the paper tickets … we create a single marketplace,” Estis said. “This system provides the means to resell in an environment in which we control the experience.”

The Cavaliers generate revenue by charging buyers a 20 percent fee on tickets resold through Flash Seats. Season-ticket holders are not charged for reselling their seats but are required to use Flash Seats exclusively to conduct those transactions after they register for the program, said Tad Carper, the club’s senior vice president of communications.

The Cavs sell individual tickets through Ticketmaster, but the team elected not to join the company’s TicketExchange secondary ticket program.

One-third of Cavaliers season-ticket holders are using Flash Seats to manage their accounts for the 2006-07 season. Team officials declined to reveal the specific number.

The Cavaliers invested “easily into six figures” to install Flash Seats hardware and set up exclusive access points at Quicken Loans Arena, where driver’s licenses or credit cards are swiped through handheld readers, Carper said. The readers, which recognize personal data from registered season-ticket holders or the individuals owning the tickets through secondary transactions, spit out receipts for ticket holders that contain their seat location. That piece of paper serves as a ticket for the game.

The Cavaliers started the in-arena portion of the Flash Seats program last Monday for a preseason game, and the paperless tickets did not slow entry into the arena, Estis said. The most common problem was ticket holders thinking they were automatically registered after receiving an e-mail informing them of the new technology.

The secondary ticket program starts today.

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