Former Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen Discusses Re-Entry Into Ticket Business
Fred Rosen is grabbing the sports and entertainment industry's attention again as he re-enters the ticketing business. Rosen, co-President & co-CEO of Canadian firm Outbox Technology, spent 26 years as Ticketmaster's President & CEO, turning that company into the multibillion-dollar empire it is today. He sat down for a one-on-one interview yesterday during the AT&T Sports Facilities and Franchises conference in Hoboken, N.J., hosted by SBJ/SBD.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX: The outspoken, often abrasive but always entertaining Rosen re-emerges with Outbox 13 years after leaving Ticketmaster, and three years after exiting AudienceView, a Toronto ticketing firm where things didn't work out for him after five months on the job. Outbox currently operates ticketing for Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens and Cirque de Soleil's worldwide tours. In February, six months after joining Outbox, Rosen and his partner Jean-Francoys Brousseau, Ticketmaster's former COO, formed a joint venture with AEG. Together, Outbox and AEG plan to grow business over the next two years to include ticketing at facilities AEG owns and operates, and NBA and NHL arenas where it has booking and marketing deals. "What we want to do is ultimately be the company that lets you fulfill your need to be a brand," Rosen said. "It's not our brand, it's not about us, it's about you. The word empowerment is a very powerful word. Some people will get it and some people won't. We don't expect everybody to get it. No one's going to force anybody to do anything. We know how many people we're talking to and I haven't set a measure for what's successful. What's clear is this, people are talking about [Outbox]. People know that in the space of less than a year we're in many of the conversations." The total ticketing revenue those 115 venues where AEG does business produce is in the neighborhood of $400M. One of the first buildings expected to change vendors will be the AEG-operated O2 arena in London, where Rosen is headed next week to prepare for converting the facility's system from Ticketmaster to Outbox next year. "AEG has an extensive reach," he said. "They are everywhere from southern California to Australia and China. This is not a sprint but a marathon. We're doing an orderly conversion. Every quarter, more buildings will convert to us starting in the third quarter. We're going around the world."
A TEAM EFFORT: Staples Center and The Home Depot Center, the facilities AEG owns and operates in its hometown of L.A., will move to the Outbox-AEG system when those two facilities' deals with Ticketmaster expire over the next several months. The remaining 113 facilities where AEG conducts business is not a slam dunk, Rosen acknowledged. In those arenas where AEG books and markets events for NBA and NHL clubs, the decision to change ticketing vendors is up to the team or whoever manages the building, Rosen acknowledged. Together, those two entities will make a collaborative decision that best serves the interests of both parties, he said. For those buildings that currently have deals with Ticketmaster, the Outbox-AEG joint venture is pitching its product as a white-label solution where the team controls consumer data without a third party standing in the way of collecting and using that information to sell things beyond tickets such as food and beverage and merchandise, Rosen said. It is not unique. Paciolan, New Era Tickets and Veritix are three examples of ticketing companies using the same business model. But Rosen believes his three decades of experience developing Ticketmaster into the dominant player in the business, coupled with AEG's powerful presence as a building operator and event promoter, will help make those decisions easier for the facilities. "The point is this -- ticketing hasn't changed from days of the Roman Coliseum when they had much better attendance when the lions were actually eating the people," he said. "It's about putting bodies in seats and creating fair value for the fan and creating an expectation of the experience they're going to get in your building and there's nothing like a live experience."