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New York to require Covid-19 vax for all indoor shows

New York City, one of the world’s live music capitals, will soon require proof of being vaccinated for anyone who wants to attend an indoor live show, mayor Bill de Blasio announced today (3 August).

The strict new requirements will be extended to other indoor activities, including dining at a restaurant and working out at in the gym, throughout August and September, as the city seeks to stop the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, reports the Associated Press.

New York is the first major city to impose such restrictions, though some venues already have similar requirements: Iconic arena Madison Square Garden, for example, has required all fans to be fully vaccinated for its non-socially distanced events since the Foo Fighters’ huge show in June. (Interestingly, the city mandate won’t require ‘full’/double vaccinations – only the first jab.)

“If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated”

According to AP, the policy will come into effect on 16 August but inspections and enforcement won’t begin until 13 September, when the city’s schools reopen. About 66% of adults in New York are fully vaccinated, according to official data.

De Blasio has so far rejected calls to require masks indoors, as some cities in California have, focusing instead on getting the city’s population immunised against the virus.

“The only way to patronise these establishments indoors will be if you’re vaccinated,” says de Blasio, whose office administers a city of over eight million people.“The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now.”

 


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NY venues that ask for proof of vax can fully reopen

New York venues are now permitted to return to full capacity, instead of one-third full, if they require patrons to show proof of vaccination.

Major venues including Madison Square Garden (MSG) and Radio City Hall have already announced plans that centre around attendees who have been fully vaccinated.

Radio City Hall (cap 6,015) is set to reopen on 19 June at full capacity, exclusively for citizens who have been fully vaccinated, which counts for 44.6% of New Yorkers.

The news was announced by New York City governor Andrew Cuomo last week (17 May), during a conference held inside the music hall.

“Having Radio City back at 100%, without masks, with people enjoying New York, and the New York arts, is going to be not only symbolic and metaphoric; but I think it’s going to go a long way toward bringing back this state,” he said.

“This is going to be not only symbolic and metaphoric; but I think it’s going to go a long way toward bringing back this state”

James Dolan, executive chairman of the MSG Company, which owns Radio City Music Hall, confirmed the venue is set to remain open and operate as usual beyond 19 June.

It’s not clear how the venue would check people’s vaccination status, but it’s likely that the Excelsior Pass will be used.

The app, launched by New York state, verifies proof of Covid-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination with art and entertainment venues and businesses by using a scannable QR code. It was tested during the Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Centre on 27 February and during the New York Rangers game on 2 March at MSG.

Yesterday (23 May), MSG welcomed 15,000 fans to watch the first round of the NBA playoffs, marking the largest indoor gathering for New York state since the start of the pandemic.

Last week, governor Cuomo announced that the city’s basketball teams, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, would have fully vaccinated fan sections, increasing the capacity at MSG and the Barclays Centre.

According to Dolan, almost 90% of last night’s audience had been vaccinated and therefore, were not required to socially distance or wear masks when seated.

“The public has spoken – they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love”

“I hope everyone in sports and entertainment is listening because the public has spoken – they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love,” said Dolan.

“This overwhelming response by Knicks fans – almost 90% of whom are vaccinated – should silence any doubters. It’s time to start booking events and filling up our schedules, so stay tuned. We want to thank governor Cuomo for this leap forward; he knew we could do this – not just for us, but for New York.”

New York treads a similar path as Israel, which requires citizens to be doubly vaccinated to gain access to concerts, gyms, swimming pools, theatres and hotels.

Israelis’ vaccination status is verified by the Green Pass – a certificate issued by the ministry of health showing they had received both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior to the event or that they had recovered from Covid-19 and were presumed immune.

The ethical implications of implementing vaccine passports have been hotly debated around the world. Last week, in IQ’s first-ever Recovery Sessions, a number of experts hailing from Tel Aviv to London debated the topics of test certificates and vaccine passports.

IQ subscribers can watch the Recovery Sessions on-demand here.

 


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NY launches Covid-19 pass to fast-track return to live

New York has become the first US state to launch a digital Covid-19 pass that shows citizens’ vaccination status and test results, in an effort to help venues welcome larger groups.

Madison Square Garden (cap. 20,789) in New York City and the Times Union Center (cap. 17,500) in Albany are among the major venues that have already announced they will begin to utilise the Excelsior Pass in the coming weeks.

Smaller arts, entertainment and event venues will be able to use the Excelsior Pass from 2 April.

The pass can either be printed out or stored on smartphones using the Excelsior Pass Wallet app. Each pass will have a secure QR code, which participating businesses and venues can scan using a companion app to verify proof of Covid-19 negative test results or proof of vaccination.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the Excelsior Pass, developed in partnership with IBM, on Friday (26 March).

“New Yorkers have proven they can follow public health guidance to beat back Covid, and the innovative Excelsior Pass is another tool in our new toolbox to fight the virus while allowing more sectors of the economy to reopen safely and keeping personal information secure,” said governor Cuomo.

“The Excelsior Pass will play an important role in allowing people to gather safely, which will be critical to NY’s recovery”

“The question of ‘public health or the economy’ has always been a false choice — the answer must be both. As more New Yorkers get vaccinated each day and as key public health metrics continue to regularly reach their lowest rates in months, the first-in-the-nation Excelsior Pass heralds the next step in our thoughtful, science-based reopening,” he said.

James Dolan, executive chairman, MSG Sports and executive chairman and CEO, MSG Entertainment, says: “We are grateful the state is focused on doing everything possible to reopen businesses across our region safely and quickly. The Excelsior Pass will play an important role in allowing people to gather safely, which will be critical to New York’s recovery. We were proud to be part of the Excelsior Pass pilot and look forward to participating in the programme.”

Madison Square Garden (MSG) was part of the pilot programme to test the Excelsior Pass.

The initial phase of the pilot took place during a Brooklyn Nets game at Barclays Center (cap. 19,000) on 27 February and was tested for a second time during a New York Rangers game at MSG on 2 March.

Following that, major stadiums and arenas in New York were permitted to reopen with a capacity of 10% from 23 February, using guidelines based on the testing programme.

Similar ‘vaccine passports’ are already being developed, or are under consideration, in a number of European Union countries, including Sweden, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus.

An EU-wide vaccine passport that could replace the piecemeal approach currently being pursued by individual member states, was put forward last week.

 


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US election: Venues turn into polling stations

Live Nation has announced plans to use more than 100 of its US venues as polling stations for the American presidential election on 3 November.

The concert giant says it is working with local authorities to examine the feasibility of using Live Nation-owned venues across the country as polling centres, with the Wiltern (1,850-cap.) and Hollywood Palladium (3,800-cap.) in Los Angeles, Emo’s (1,700-cap.) in Austin, Texas, and the Buckhead Theatre (1,800-cap.) in Atlanta already confirmed.

The Fillmore (2,500-cap.) in Philadelphia is in the “final stages of the vetting process”, it adds.

“Core to what we do at Live Nation is helping amplify voices on stage around the world, and supporting voting is another important way we want to continue making voices heard,” comments LN CEO Michael Rapino. “We’re honoured to work with such incredible partners and will do everything in our power to support and empower voter engagement among our employees and the public.”

The LN properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas

The company has also partnered with More Than a Vote, a non-profit organisation supporting black voters, and announced it will give its employees paid time off to vote.

The Live Nation properties join other venues previously announced as serving as polling stations, including multiple arenas. They include Madison Square Garden in New York, the Los Angeles Forum, State Farm Arena in Atlanta and Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

“As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to make mass gatherings difficult, we are excited to partner with New York City’s board of elections,” says Madison Square Garden’s Rich Constable, “and support our community by providing a large-scale venue in the heart of New York City that can accommodate social distancing and serve as a safe place for residents to exercise their right to vote.”

The US presidential election will be held on Tuesday 3 November 2020, pitting incumbent president Donald Trump against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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MSG plans full ents spin-off amid UK Sphere delays

Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) expects 2020 to be a “defining year”, as the company prepares to spin-off its entertainment businesses from its sports company and announces changes to Sphere plans.

The announcements were made in an earnings call for the first fiscal quarter of 2020, in which reported an adjusted operating loss of US$41.1 million, compared to $9.9m in Q1 2019. The company puts part of the increased losses down to “additional expenses in MSG Sphere related content and technology”.

The Sphere venues formed a major part of the conversation, with MSG president Andrew Lustgarten confirming that a 2022 opening for the 21,500-capacity London Sphere is “no longer realistic”, as the planning application process looks to continue into 2020.

“As we work through the planning application and design process, our timeline will continue to evolve,” said Lustgarten. “Therefore, we do not have a target opening date at this time.”

MSG vice chairman Gregg Seibert cited the change to the London Sphere opening plans as a reason for the company’s decision to pursue a full spin-off of its entertainment business from its sports business, resulting in no retention of equity interest in the sports company.

“We do not have a target opening date [for the London Sphere] at this time”

“Timeline for the opening of our London venue is evolving and we believe that the entertainment company will have sufficient financial flexibility to pursue its venue expansion plans without the need for the retained interest,” explained Seibert.

MSG had previously explored a spin-off of its sports and entertainment businesses into two distinct public companies, with the entertainment company retaining a one-third stake in MSG sports.

The spin-off remains subject to final approvals by the MSG board and others.

All remains on track for the original MSG Sphere to open in Las Vegas in 2021. MSG believes the venue will be “highly successful”, due to the growing demand for immersive shared experiences, Las Vegas’ positioning as “one of the world’s top entertainment destinations” and a partnership with convention-based resort specialist Las Vegas Sands.

“We expect MSG Sphere to change how we think about the entertainment experience, which is why we anticipate the Las Vegas Sphere becoming the most highly utilised venue in our portfolio.”

The first quarter of 2020 also saw MSG report a quarterly revenue of $214.8m, a 2% decrease year-on-year. The decline was attributed to the absence of a “special event” to replace the MTV Video Music Awards, which took place in Q1 2019.

 


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Billy Joel extends best-ever sold-out run at MSG

Billy Joel will continue his record-breaking monthly residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) on 25 January 2020.

The singer has played one show per month at the venue for the past six years, selling over one million tickets. All shows have been sold-out.

The January date marks the 72nd performance of his MSG residency and his 118th overall at the venue. Joel says he will maintain the residency “as long as the demand continues”.

Joel will continue his residency “as long as the demand continues”

In December 2013, Joel was named MSG’s first-ever music franchise, joining two other MSG mainstays – basketball team the New York Knicks and ice hockey club the New York Rangers.

Joel has been the recipient of the ASCAP Centennial Award, six Grammy Awards and a Tony Award. The singer was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Tickets for the January show will be available to buy at 10 a.m. (EST) on Friday 1 November via the Ticketmaster website.

 


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The Garden adds biometric entry with Clear

The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has signed a partnership with secure identity service Clear to offer fingerprint-based biometric entry to its Madison Square Garden arena in New York.

The 20,000-capacity Garden becomes Clear’s 14th venue, joining sports and entertainment destinations such as Citi Field and Yankee Stadium in New York, Oracle Park in San Francisco, Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, T-Mobile Park in Seattle and AmericanAirlines Arena and Marlins Park in Miami, as well as international airports across the US.

A dedicated Clear lane at Madison Square Garden will offers fans fast, frictionless access into sports matches, concerts and other live events held at the world’s second-busiest arena, with Clear staff on site to assist patrons with enrolling into the biometric programme and generating their ‘Clear ID’.

“Launching at MSG represents a major milestone for Clear”

“We are pleased to welcome Clear into the Madison Square Garden family,” says Ron Skotarczak, executive vice-president of marketing partnerships for MSG. “Like MSG, Clear is committed to enhancing the customer experience, and we look forward to providing CLEAR’s growing membership with unforgettable Garden memories.”

“Launching at MSG represents a major milestone for Clear, and we look forward to making our members’ experience there more efficient, easier and more predictable so they don’t miss out on what they came to see,” adds Clear CEO Caryn Seidman Becker.

“By adding the Garden to our growing New York City ecosystem, Clear members can now enjoy frictionless experiences at three iconic sports and entertainment venues and three key local-area airports with one biometric ID.”

 


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Booking war nears end as AEG abandons block booking

Update (23/9/18): The Osbournes have dropped their lawsuit against AEG following the end of the O2–Staples Center block-booking arrangement.

 


The long-running ‘booking war’ between AEG and Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) looks to be approaching its conclusion, after Jay Marciano, chairman and CEO of AEG Presents, confirmed the company is no longer block booking its LA Staples Center and London O2 venues.

The two companies have been engaged in a tit-for-tat dispute since early 2017, with AEG instituting a booking policy that forces artists who want to perform at AEG’s European venues, particularly the 20,000-cap. O2 Arena, to also play Staples Center (21,000-cap.) rather than MSG’s LA Forum (17,500-cap.). MSG and Azoff MSG Entertainment, its joint venture with former Live Nation executive chairman Irving Azoff, similar tied Madison Square Garden in New York with the Forum in LA, with each party blaming the other for starting the ‘war’.

Recent developments include MSG-allied Live Nation lodging a complaint with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority over the O2–Staples Center arrangement, which was dismissed by the CMA last December, and, in March, Ozzy and Sharon Obsnourne suing AEG, alleging that forcing artists to play both venues is an “explicit”, “brazen” violation of US competition law.

Announcing the end of the block-booking policy, Marciano tells Variety it is no longer necessary now that MSG has ended its own tying arrangement.

“I applaud Jay Marciano and AEG’s decision to put artists first”

“Going forward, promoters for artists who want to play the O2 will no longer to be required to commit to playing Staples,” he says.

“We would only require that commitment if we had reason to believe that artists were being somehow pressured to play the Forum in order to have access to the Garden. But we’ve had a lot of feedback from artists and agents and managers that they’re no longer [feeling pressured to do so].

“We’re pleased that this is the end result.”

Azoff welcomes the news, while also praising the Osbournes for their legal action. “It’s a great day for artists when those of us that make a living serving them recognise that artists should have the right to their own decisions, especially regarding choice of venues to play,” he says in a statement. “I applaud Jay Marciano and AEG’s decision to put artists first, and of course thanks to Ozzy and Sharon for standing up for everyone.”

 


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Revenue and profits up for Madison Square Garden in 2018

Posting their financial results yesterday, the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has reported strong growth in revenue and operating income in fiscal year 2018.

Over the course of the fiscal year, the group generated approximately $1.6 billion in revenue, representing an increase of some 18 per cent compared to 2017’s efforts. On top of this, the Company generated operating income of $18.9 million, an increase of $79.2 million and an adjusted operating income (AOI) of $193.8, up $96.2 million on last year’s results.

Speaking on the good fortune of the year, MSG executive chairman and CEO Jim Dolan says: “We had a solid fiscal 2018, driven by the performance of our bookings business, the Christmas Spectacular, and sponsorships.

“This past year we also took important steps to position the Company for continued growth as we unveiled our plans to build state-of-the-art venues – called MSG Sphere – in Las Vegas and London, and announced the exploration of a potential separation of our entertainment and sports businesses.

“We believe that our commitment to delivering premium live experiences for our customers and partners will continue to create long-term value for our shareholders”

“Looking ahead, we believe that our commitment to delivering premium live experiences for our customers and partners will continue to create long-term value for our shareholders.”

Somewhat deflated results were posted for the fourth quarter of 2018. Revenue increased just four per cent on the same quarter in 2017, at $318 million. Alongside this, the Company generated an operating loss of $45.4 million and an adjusted operating loss of $2.5 million, however this does represent improvements on last year’s results by 51% and 94% respectively.

The results of the two branches of the company, Madison Square Garden Sports (MSGS) and Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) were also released. MSGS revenue decreased by 26% to $132.5 million. The loss was attributed to a lack of playoff-related revenue, combined with lower basketball and hockey league distribution.

The opposite was true for MSGE, which posted revenue of $185.6, up 47% from 2017. Among the higher event-related revenue coming from the Company’s venues, including Madison Square Garden itself, the rise in revenue has been attributed to a full quarter of operating results for their club and hospitality division, TAO Group.

 


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MSG to look into live entertainment division spin-off

The board of directors of Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has approved plans to explore a separation of its sports and entertainment businesses into two distinct public companies.

The proposed spin-off – which would be subject to regulatory approval, and as yet has no timetable for completion – would “enable shareholders to more clearly evaluate each company’s assets and future potential, while allowing both companies to pursue their own distinct business strategy and capital allocation policy”, according to a note sent to investors.

The sports company would include MSG’s basketball teams, New York Knicks and New York Liberty, its ice-hockey team New York Rangers and two esports organisations, Knicks Gaming and Counter Logic Gaming.

The dedicated live entertainment division, meanwhile, would comprise:

The live entertainment company would also include the hotly anticipated new MSG Sphere venues in Las Vegas and London, which are expected to completed in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

MSG CEO James Dolan, who is expected to be CEO and executive chairman of both companies, comments: “We are exploring the opportunity to further create value by separating our businesses into two distinct companies. One company would be a leader in live entertainment with a growing portfolio of assets that will include the state-of-the-art music and entertainment-focused venues called MSG Sphere. The other entity would be a pure-play sports company driven by the strong financial performance of the storied Knicks and Rangers franchises.

“We believe this proposed transaction would provide each company with enhanced strategic flexibility, its own defined business focus and clear investment characteristics.”

 


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