Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 13
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

MiLB, Tickets.com reach multiyear deal

Minor League Baseball has a league-level ticketing deal for the first time in its history as it signed a multiyear agreement with Tickets.com.

The deal, roughly a year in the making, designates the MLB Advanced Media-owned Tickets.com as MiLB’s official ticketing provider. It calls for the company to make a “substantial” investment into customizing its ProVenue platform for the minors to include modern features commonly seen in the major leagues such as digital ticketing, virtual seat views and real-time analytics.

Akron is among the clubs working with Tickets.com.
GETTY IMAGES
The MiLB-Tickets.com agreement marks a key step in the affiliated minors’ goal of increasing its annual attendance of about 42 million to 50 million by 2026.

“The days of the paper ticket are coming to an end, and we now have a partner that’s really about technology and will allow us to take a big step forward together as a unified organization,” said David Wright, MiLB chief marketing and commercial officer.

Financial terms were not disclosed. In addition to the ticketing component itself, a marketing element will showcase Tickets.com’s status as MiLB’s official ticketing provider. Specific activation plans are still being developed but will likely include signage, particularly with high-drawing MiLB clubs and at key events.

Participation by individual clubs in the MiLB-Tickets.com agreement will remain voluntary. Prior to this deal, teams were able to make their own deals with a pre-approved set of ticketing providers. But Tickets.com had begun a push to sign individual MiLB clubs, many of which had been with rival entities such as TicketReturn.com and Glitnir Ticketing. That effort to date has landed two dozen clubs for Tickets.com, a number company executives expect to surpass 100 by the start of the 2018 season with the league-level structure now in place.

“It makes a lot of sense, particularly from a scale and efficiency standpoint, to approach this as a single industry as opposed to team by team,” said Joe Choti, Tickets.com president and chief executive, who led the negotiations with Wright and MiLB President and Chief Executive Officer Pat O’Conner. “Every team, regardless of their size or classification, will have equal access to the technology as their other colleagues.”

Discussions toward the agreement began to accelerate at last December’s Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md., with the deal now completed in advance of a key renewal period in which teams are making decisions for 2018 on key business matters such as ticketing.

MiLB and Tickets.com are developing a ticketing summit for September that will occur in concert with MiLB’s Promotional Seminar in Greenville, S.C., and gather representatives of the 160 clubs to share best practices and review technological developments. That summit will join a planned “innovation lab” operated by the two entities in which they will collaborate on ideas for ticketing and fan experience.

Among the initiatives under discussion is a minor league application of the subscription-based Ballpark Passes currently employed by 22 major league baseball clubs and rapidly transforming the ticketing landscape at that level

The Tickets.com deal also marks a further tightening of the relationship between MiLB and MLBAM. The two entities have been partners for more than a decade on MiLB’s digital rights, formalized in 2008 with the Baseball Internet Rights Co. (BIRCO) joint venture.

“[Tickets.com] has really adapted itself well to the particular nuances of our business, such as our large focus on group sales,” said Ken Babby, founder and chairman of Fast Forward Sports Group, which owns the Class AA Akron (Ohio) RubberDucks and Class AA Jacksonville (Fla.) Jumbo Shrimp. Babby is also chairman of BIRCO’s board of directors. “We are now looking forward to how this can help improve the ballpark experience for our fans.”