SBJ/Aug. 5-11, 2013/Franchises

Can Veritix chip away at Ticketmaster’s NFL business?

Ticketmaster’s complete dominance of the NFL ticketing market came to an end last week with the Detroit Lions’ switch to Veritix for season and game-day primary tickets.

The Lions and Veritix talked up the ability of the 7-year-old company to customize and brand the ticket-buying experience for the team, suggesting that, in an era where fan engagement is a top priority for the NFL, other clubs might follow suit.

So is Ticketmaster in danger of losing traction in the NFL, the only league among the big four where it had managed ticketing for every club?

“Teams are looking at it, but Ticketmaster has done a good job,” said one top team executive, who requested anonymity because he did not want to alienate his tickets partner. “But being able to brand ticket-buying is part of the total fan experience.”

Right now, fans that call Ticketmaster get a company that brands itself as the place for tickets, with the brands of the individual clubs secondary.

Veritix pitches itself as a back-office-type organization, and when fans call its number, they get taken through as if calling the team.

“Veritix [does] not insert ourselves [into] their fan relationship,” said Sam Gerace, the CEO of Cleveland-based Veritix. “We are not brand forward. And the Lions are pursuing a true, 365-day-a-year relationship with their fans.”

Ticketmaster said it remains bullish on its NFL business. “We continue to focus on delivering innovation around the things our clients and fans want most — like mobile ticket management, social media integration and the best possible fan experience,” the company said in a statement.

The Lions may have had reasons for going with Veritix other than just branding. The company is co-owned by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is investing heavily in an effort to rebuild downtown Detroit through his Opportunity Detroit real estate project. Through that, he has forged ties with the Lions, noted by team President Tom Lewand.

Still, the NFL has been making the fan experience a top priority for years now as it tries to compete with luxury home entertainment systems.

How the people answering the ticket line identify themselves may not be the most critical part, but it is still a part, said the team executive.

Lewand added: “A lot of people are looking at different opportunities to engage with fans. This is a huge opportunity because tickets are a backbone of our operations in a lot of different ways.”

The Lions’ secondary ticketing remains with Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange, which has a league deal with the NFL. Veritix’s Flash Seats, however, will provide secondary ticketing services for non-Lions events at Ford Field, including an upcoming concert by Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake and the Monster Jam monster truck rally in January.

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