SBJ/20091108/Technology in Sports

Ticketing

Going paperless

The future in ticketing technology lies in the ability to make the ticket disappear.

Veritix, a company owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, and a handful of other companies including Ticketmaster and Tickets.com are leading the way in paperless ticketing, which allows teams and events to cut ticketing costs and, more importantly, provides new revenue streams and valuable data.

Paperless ticketing, which began in the late 1990s, is expected to continue growing in the coming years as teams look to offer more targeted opportunities to sponsors and more convenience and access to fans, as well as access to a mountain of data that shows who is buying tickets, when those tickets are being purchased, and what those buyers are spending during the game.

Whether it’s using driver’s licenses and credit cards, seasonlong ticket cards, mobile ticketing, or systems involving radio frequency ID, paperless ticketing is the future.

“I think it’s going to take off across the board, but the implementation is going to be varied,” said Brett Michalak, chief information officer at Tickets.com. “Whether that’s showing up at a venue and showing an ID, or it’s showing up with your mobile phone — it’s probably going to be a varying of both.”

Stored value, meaning the ability to pay for purchases with those forms of identification, is expected to become more accepted. It allows ticket holders the convenience of loading accounts with cash, and provides properties a new platform for sponsors.

Traditional paper tickets may soon be obsolete
with use of paperless tickets that can be
transferred digitally.

A quick-service restaurant, for example, could offer a $5 credit at the stadium’s concession stands to fans sitting in Sections 1-25 and then track the redemption rate. Or, a team could give fans in one section a $1 merchandise credit for each strikeout in a game.

Paperless tickets also provide a way for teams and events to find out where, when and how much each of their fans is spending at games.

“You can see what ticket was used so you can identify and link down to an SKU level to see what was purchased during that event,” Michalak said.

Paperless tickets, because they must be transferred digitally, also provide a way for teams to find out who is attending games and how much they paid.

FlashSeats, owned by Veritix, requires digital ticket buyers to register a form of identification that is used in lieu of a ticket card to enter games. That means secondary sales must occur via a medium controlled by teams, which can then take a cut of any transfer. It also provides a paper trail that serves as a sales lead.

“If you transfer your tickets to one person nine times a season, then the sales group would identify that person as someone who might be interested in buying a 10-game minipack,” said Jeff Kline, president of Veritix. He noted that before the service, which for the first time will be used throughout Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena this season, the Cavs could only identify 40 percent of ticket buyers at games.

“One of the beauties of digital ticketing,” Kline said, “is you know who’s in each seat, how and when they got it, and what they paid for that seat.”

The ticket transfers and pricing also goes in a database that helps team executives identify the sections in which they could raise prices, given the market value of the ticket. It also heads off potential customer service problems that could lead to a nonrenewal.

“If someone else hasn’t been to a game in three months, it tells us that we need to find out what’s going on,” Kline said.

— Jon Show

Mobile ticketing

In the 1980s, we stood in line. In the 1990s, it was busy tone, flash, redial. Today, mobile applications available from companies such as eSeats.com, Ticketmaster and Tickets.com let you buy tickets regardless of your location.

Arizona-based eSeats, a secondary ticket agency that offers a download exclusively on the iPhone, allows AT&T Wireless customers to search for sporting events by city or team name, or by GPS. The site pulls up a chart with all sections, prices and available seats, and that chart in turn expands into a stadium map that potential buyers can use to see exactly where the available seats are located.

Tickets are purchased from the customer’s iPhone and shipped via traditional methods.

Ticketmaster, which counts BlackBerry as its official smart phone, created a download this year for the new BlackBerry App World that provides the same services found on its Web site.

Neither offering has received rave reviews, however. ESeats received an average of two out of five stars from iTunes users, though many of the negative reviews were based on ticket prices and availability as opposed to the app’s functions.

Berry Review, a popular Web critic, wrote of the Ticketmaster app: “Turns out that Ticketmaster for BlackBerry is just a glorified browser shortcut/plugin with some added menu items and BlackBerry Wallet integration.”

Tickets.com allows fans to buy tickets from their mobile Web site and sends a barcode to buyers that can be scanned at facilities with the corresponding technology. If a customer accidentally deletes the barcode, it can be resent by texting a code back to Tickets.com.

— Jon Show

Custom printing

While much of ticket technology today is about making paper tickets disappear, there is an offering that lets people revisit the older days of ticketing.

Ticketmaster offers custom event tickets.

Ticketmaster last year began selling novelty tickets that can be customized for anyone’s event in the style of the company’s familiar “block” ticket design. Prices range from 40 cents to 90 cents per ticket, plus shipping, but are not intended for resale.

The effort expands on an offering Ticketmaster has had in place for about a decade that lets fans who are buying tickets for games or concerts customize their purchases by listing individual data and uploading images onto tickets. Buyers can select from 10 different colors of paper stock and a variety of fonts to spell out whatever message they choose. They also can upload artwork that is printed directly on the ticket. The tickets still have the look and feel of a traditional ticket, though, complete with perforated edges, holograms and UV markings.

Prices for these customized tickets range from a $40 surcharge for up to 300 tickets, or 6 cents per ticket for an order of more than 5,000 in quantity.

— Jon Show

Ticket kiosks
Ticketmaster kiosks at Time Warner
Cable Arena serve Bobcats fans.

Taking a cue from the airline industry, pro sports teams are finding new benefits in the use of ticketing kiosks at their venues.

AudienceView, Ticketmaster and Tickets.com are among the companies that have installed touch-screen kiosks that can be branded with the marks of a team or an event. The benefits, similar to those at an airport, include reducing box office lines on game day, decreasing the number of staff needed for ticketing services, and lessening the chances of angering fans by forcing them to wait in long lines.

Fans can buy and print tickets 24 hours a day with a credit card, or pick up tickets already purchased by phone or online. Handling or convenience charges are usually less than $10 per order but vary depending on the company.

The Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Braves use Ticketmaster machines, and Tickets.com has kiosks at Washington’s Nationals Park and other venues.

— Jon Show

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