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“A huge concern”: Live industry reacts to StubHub buy

Industry experts weigh in on the Viagogo-StubHub deal, the possible creation of touting’s “acceptable face” and the strengthening of Viagogo’s grasp on the resale space

By Anna Grace on 26 Nov 2019

“A huge concern”: Live industry reacts to StubHub buy

StubHub has a big presence on the primary market for US sporting events


image © StubHub

Controversial secondary ticketing site Viagogo yesterday (25 November) acquired StubHub from eBay in a US$4.05 billion all-cash deal, returning both companies to founder Eric Baker’s hands and eliciting strong reactions across the live music industry.

The sale to Viagogo – a consequence of pressure from eBay shareholders for the company to divest itself of StubHub – followed reported interest from multiple parties, including US resale marketplace Vivid Seats, and saw the e-commerce giant receive almost 13 times its original investment.

As IQ speaks to ticketing experts and commentators, a question on the lips of many is: “Just how did Baker raise the funds for the all-cash deal?”

More technical concerns include what the deal means for the future of the secondary ticketing market; how it may be used to “detoxify” Viagogo’s brand – or not; how regulators will react to the deal; and how much more likely are consumers to get ripped off.

 


Adam Webb, campaign manager, FanFair Alliance
“This feels like a desperate move from both parties.

“However, news of this acquisition should be a major concern for both audiences and music businesses – especially if Viagogo, a company that recently had a court order hanging over its head and is still the subject of a CMA investigation, uses this process as an attempt to detoxify its brand.

“FanFair will be writing to UK regulators and politicians and we reiterate our advice to music fans to avoid these sites.”

Katie O’Leary, campaign lead, Feat (Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing)
“It’s alarming to think of Viagogo potentially gaining an even greater stronghold in the secondary ticketing market, given it’s been the subject of various legal actions across Europe and banned from advertising on Google globally. (Google last lifted Viagogo’s ban on advertising. For more information, click here.)

“Viagogo claims this will create a ‘win-win for fans’, but further consolidation in the secondary ticketing market would most likely restrict competition, and further negatively impact fans.

“We hope that regulators will have consumers’ best interests at heart when considering this deal, and consider not only the question of Viagogo’s increased dominance but also whether they can be considered a fit and proper owner.”

“We hope that regulators will have consumers’ best interests at heart, and consider whether Viagogo can be considered a fit and proper owner”

Anton Lockwood, director of live, DHP Family
“Coupled with the disturbing news that Google is allowing Viagogo to advertise again, we see this as a step backwards in the fight against inflated price secondary ticketing, Viagogo’s brand has become toxic in the last few years and this seems like an attempt to cleanse it.

“At DHP we stand strongly against unscrupulous traders selling tickets at inflated prices, at the expense of genuine fans – this acquisition can only serve to further that, and we urge the regulators to look very closely at what the new company does.

“We always advise buying tickets from primary vendors or face value secondary vendors who are members of Star to obtain genuine tickets, at the correct price with consumer protection in place.”

Neo Sala, founder and CEO, Doctor Music Concerts
“Viagogo may hope that their reputation will be greenwashed through association with Stubhub, who have historically kept more in line with regulation — but both have a long history of ripping off fans.

“I have no doubt that if this gets cleared it will be bad news for fans, as well as those of us who invest in the live sector. Coupled with the news from Google, it’s really concerning to see things take such a backwards step.”

“At DHP we stand strongly against unscrupulous traders selling tickets at inflated prices, at the expense of genuine fans”

Claudio Trotta, founder, Barley Arts
“In my more than 40 years in the business, this is one of the worst pieces of news I have received.

“It is really scary – first of all, the fact that Viagogo can spend $4 billion in cash is very worrying. Secondly, that Viagogo has bought a competitor that operates in most countries in the world means we are really far away from winning the battle against this cancer – and I do truly believe it is a cancer. I am sure they have made this deal because they absolutely know they can carry on doing secondary ticketing in the majority of countries in the world and circumvent the laws that are in place.

“This is very bad for the future of industry – for music, for punters, and for overall quality. Music is in danger of becoming only for rich people and for fanatics – the only people capable of paying inflated secondary prices.

“We need to do something against this, otherwise live music will be dead in the way we know it. With these prices, there would be no new acts either, which means no more future.

“In Italy, there is a law against secondary ticketing, and also a law on nominative tickets. I am the only one of the major Italian promoters in favour of this law. I think the future is to have complete digitalisation of tickets, and for each to have a unique code. This is the only way to fight secondary ticketing.”

“In my more than 40 years in the business, this is one of the worst pieces of news I have received”

Dave Newton, ticketing professional
“In North America the deal will make no noticeable change as StubHub already dominates the resale market along with having an appreciable share of the primary market (especially in the sports sector) and Viagogo has no presence there.

“But in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, we may see the increasingly toxic Viagogo brand put out to pasture as its market share is folded into the now-established StubHub brand in each of these territories.

“There is a scenario whereby the Viagogo brand is kept alive for a while as a way of deflecting anti-tout activity and attention from StubHub which has been generally been regarded as ‘the best of a bad bunch’ over the last five years. Viagogo could soak up the emotional ire of the media, customers and the events industry while StubHub quietly holds onto its more collaborative and conciliatory reputation.

“Could we see primary ticketing agencies launching resale platforms in Europe if StubHub succeeds in becoming the acceptable face for touting? There may also now be room for significantly-funded new entrants into the space.

“And where does this leave the ticket-buying fan? No less ripped-off, that’s for sure.”

“We may see the increasingly toxic Viagogo brand put out to pasture as its market share is folded into the now-established Stubhub brand”

Annabella Coldrick, CEO, MMF (Music Managers’ Forum)
“On the back of the FanFair Alliance campaign, we’ve seen huge steps to reform the UK’s secondary ticketing market and put a stop to the rip-off, anti-fan practices of sites like Viagogo. For that reason, the announcement is a huge concern.

“The consolidation of the biggest remaining platforms for ticket touts could potentially reverse progress and cause untold harm for audiences and artists alike.”

Rob Wilmshurst, CEO, See Tickets
“I had to check my calendar to make sure it was not April Fools’ Day. I am very, very surprised, not just at the scale of the deal but at where the cash might have come from.

“I am no fan of ticket touting so I can’t say it made my day but it is what it is. In any case, I congratulate Eric for pulling it off.”

Richard Davies, CEO, Twickets
“This is further terrible news for ticketing as two deceitful operators combine forces in order to further turn the screw on the consumer. It demonstrates the need more than ever for a specialist face value resale service that properly serves genuine fans.”

“The consolidation of the biggest remaining platforms for ticket touts could cause untold harm for audiences and artists alike”

Maarten Bloemers, CEO, Guts Tickets
“In five years I expect this to be deemed a total waste of money. It’s a joining of forces of two eerily similar entities companies, the main similarity being that they do not care in the slightest about the consumer they are supposedly serving.

“Technological innovation is making these businesses obsolete, and will put the priority back with the consumer, where it belongs.

Jonathan Brown, chief executive, Star (The Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers)
“We note with interest the news that Viagogo has bought StubHub and will continue to watch developments closely.

“Customers need to know where they can buy tickets reliably from authorised sources and the best way of doing this is to always buy from Star members who have signed up to our code of practice and approved dispute resolution service.”

Adam French, consumer rights expert, Which?
“Viagogo has a long history of ripping off music and sports fans and had to be threatened with court action after failing to provide vital information to customers, so any move to increase its grip on the secondary ticketing sector is likely to be a worry for consumers.

“The regulator should closely examine this deal and the impact it could have on competition in the sector to ensure consumers do not lose out.”

This article will be updated with more reactions as IQ receives them.

 


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