SBJ/June 4-10, 2012/In Depth

Taking sides

Understanding the key issues in the ticketing debate

Paperless ticketing
Paperless tickets — the kind that require a buyer to show ID and swipe a credit card in order to enter the gate — were created to keep some high-demand seats out of the resale market. No issue has proved more inflammatory in the ticketing debate in the last three years, in large part because opponents have argued that it unnecessarily restricts consumers.
StubHub’s side: “It’s being sold to fans as convenient. And if it is, we’re supportive of that experience,” said StubHub CMO Ray Elias. “But what’s behind it is a desire to control. Primary ticketing companies want to control tickets and pricing and funnel the secondary market back to themselves.”
Ticketmaster’s take: “This is about them protecting their ability to make money off fans, not about protecting fans,” said Ticketmaster COO Jared Smith. “If it were, they would not allow speculative postings and they’d make [sellers] disclose ticket locations. If they were interested in protecting consumers, they’d do those things.”

Transparency
Most bills that call for restrictions on paperless ticketing also would require transparency by ticket issuers, meaning teams, promoters and ticketing companies would have to disclose how many tickets they were selling at each price point, how many would be made available through the initial public sale, and how many would be sold only through pre-sales or held back for promotional use.
StubHub’s side: “Fans have a right to know how many tickets there really are,” Elias said. “The fan clubs, Amex — they all have their hands in the pot. Teams have season-ticket holder on-sales and then single-game public on-sales. They’re honest about it and people subscribe to that. There’s a lot more transparency in sports.”
Ticketmaster’s side: “We agree with transparency. We think that if the other side of the issue was really interested in changing laws to better service the fan, they would support transparency in seat locations. Make people post the face value along with the resale price. Those things would benefit the fan. They don’t like that transparency. The transparency they like is how many tickets are available during the pre-sale. It’s a farce. They want to know the best time to get access to tickets.”

Bots
Robotic software applications carry out repetitive tasks more quickly than a person can, making them a favorite tool of ticket brokers to secure large swaths of tickets soon after they go on sale. Already banned in at least a dozen states, the prohibition of bot use to buy tickets has been included in legislation supported by each side.
StubHub’s side: “We do not think anybody having an unfair advantage over a person wanting to go to a concert or a sporting event is fair. We don’t have visibility into who is using bots; the primary has visibility on that. If it is in fact happening, that’s not a user experience that we believe is fair. Should the government regulate that or should the technology be improved? That’s another question.”
Ticketmaster’s take: “We’re in a constant technological cat-and-mouse game to protect our systems. We’d love to legislate it away. We’re not naïve enough to think we will. It’s a combination of bot blocking and a little pricing strategy that together will be effective at minimizing the problems they create.”

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