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US Congress investigates ticketing industry

The United States House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday (21 November) opened an investigation into what it deems the “potentially unfair and deceptive practices” of the primary and secondary ticketing market.

Members of the Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Live Nation/Ticketmaster, AEG, StubHub, Vivid Seats, TicketNetwork and Tickets.com, requesting information pertaining to the companies’ ticketing policies.

“The Committee, which has broad jurisdiction over consumer protection issues, is concerned about potentially unfair and deceptive practices occurring in the primary and secondary ticket marketplace, many of which have been documented in consumer complaints, press stories, and government reports,” write committee leaders.

In particular, representatives express concern over “high, hidden fees”; a “lack of transparency” surrounding ticket availability; the presence of speculative tickets – or those not yet in the possession of the seller – on secondary sites; the use of “deceptive” practices by white-label websites; and “limiting” restrictions on the transferability of tickets.

“This information will help demonstrate why we must pass my Boss Act to finally put into law hard regulation of the marketplace”

The Energy and Commerce Committee has previously taken action “to protect consumers”, such as banning tickets bots, or the use of software to bulk-buy tickets. In June, the Congress reintroduced the pro-transparency Boss Act (Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing), following a workshop by the Federal Trade Commission into online ticket sales.

The act’s provisions include forcing primary sellers to disclose how many tickets will be offered for sale and make clear any fees up front, as well as prohibiting promoters and ticketing companies from restricting where buyers can resell their tickets.

Congressman Bill Pascrell, the principle sponsor of the act, comments that there is currently a “glaring lack of regulation” in the US ticketing marketplace.

“That one of Congress’s most powerful committees is investigating the worst anticompetitive and anti-consumer behaviour in the marketplace is a watershed moment,” continues Pascrell. “This information will help demonstrate why we must pass my Boss Act to finally put into law hard regulation of the marketplace.”

The ticketing companies have until Thursday 12 December to respond to the Energy and Commerce Committee’s request for information.

 


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Vivid Seats eyes up potential StubHub sale

Chicago-based secondary ticketing company Vivid Seats is among parties interested in acquiring StubHub from e-commerce giant Ebay, Bloomberg reports.

In July, IQ reported that Ebay was moving forward with the potential sale of StubHub, which it bought for US$310 million in 2007, with “multiple” parties showing interest.

The e-commerce platform announced a review of the secondary site’s “role and value”, after reportedly receiving pressure from investor Elliott Management to separate from the ticketer.

Now, it has been revealed “by people familiar with the matter”, that fellow secondary site, Vivid Seats, is among those in the running to buy StubHub, for what is believed to be as much as $3 billion. Buyout firm KKR & Co has also reportedly shown interest.

Backed by private equity firms GTCR and Vista Equity Partners, Vivid Seats recently made its first acquisition, buying ticket distributor Fanxchange, in a deal worth $65m. Vista is believed to value the company at around $1.5bn.

According to the International Ticketing Yearbook 2018, StubHub and Vivid Seats are among the United States’ four biggest secondary market players, along with Ticketmaster and SeatGeek. All four also operate in the primary sector.

 


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Vivid Seats acquires ticket distributor Fanxchange

Major US secondary ticketing platform Vivid Seats has made its first acquisition: Toronto-based Fanxchange, which offers white-label ticketing solutions for ecommerce sites, banks, travel agencies, loyalty programmes and more.

The acquisition, for “up to” C$85 million (US$65m), will further Chicago-based Vivid Seats’ “position as one of the most trusted, authoritative and comprehensive ticket marketplaces in North America”, according to a statement from the company.

“Vivid Seats is constantly exploring new ways to deliver more of the unparallelled joy of live events that has fuelled our success to date,” says Stan Chia, Vivid Seats’ CEO, who joined from Grubhub last October. “With Fanxchange, their focus on servicing the live event ticketing needs of distribution partners is an important complement to the consumer marketplace that we’ve built to date.

“We are thrilled to add their talented team and robust B2B platform, ultimately connecting more fans, sellers and partners with superior technology and the best marketplace experience.”

“With access to Vivid Seats’ infrastructure, resources and scale, we can rapidly accelerate our growth in enterprise and distribution”

Founded in 2009 by Brandon Koffler and Shawn Brookes, Fanxchange operates its own consumer-facing ticket resale platform, in addition to its core distributed-commerce business. The latter allows consumers to purchase tickets directly from the content they are reading online without needing to go to another page or website – for example, providing ticket sales links to people booking a weekend away on a travel site, for shows on those dates. (Or, in US corporate lingo, “streamlin[ing] the way consumers shop for live events by surfacing tickets across multiple distribution verticals where consumers are already engaging in content and commerce”).

Fanxchange becomes part of Vivid Seats, with Koffler and Brookes leading the company as Vivid’s B2B arm from Toronto.

“Since 2009, we have focused on building a company and platform driven by innovation,” says Fanxchange CEO Koffler. “With access to Vivid Seats’ infrastructure, resources and scale, we can rapidly accelerate our growth in enterprise and distribution. We’re very excited about this opportunity.”

Vivid Seats is backed by private-equity firms Vista Equity Partners and GTCR, the latter of which acquired a significant stake in May 2017. Vista is believed to value the company at around US$1.5 billion.

 


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Female fans first in line for ticket sales

Data presented by online statistics portal, Statista, has shown that women generated the majority of traffic to ticketing sites on the first day of ticket sales for a variety of high-profile world tours.

Female fans drove around 73% of traffic to Vivid Seats on the morning that tickets went on sale for K-pop group BTS’ first world stadium tour, Love Yourself: Speak Yourself.

The band sold out five major stadiums across the United States and Europe, including the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles (90,888-cap.), London’s Wembley Stadium (90,000-cap.) and the Stade de France in Paris (80,000-cap.).

Statista: Women first in line for ticket sales

Women generated an even higher percentage of traffic for Ariana Grande’s Sweetener world tour (75%), which sees the star perform across Europe and North America.

Female fans also drove more traffic to ticketing pages for Ed Sheeran’s ÷ world tour (64%), Taylor Swift’s Reputation tour and Drake’s Aubrey and the 3 Migos tour.

Only for the Rolling Stones No Filter tour did men have a bigger presence on the ticketing site than women, driving 56% of the traffic.

The data corresponds with information collected by event discovery guide and ticketing outlet, Skiddle, that shows women now buy 13% more live event tickets than men.

 


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Vivid Seats brings in Stan Chia as CEO

US secondary ticketing platform Vivid Seats has hired Stan Chia as CEO.

Chia was formerly COO of online food ordering service Grubhub, and has previously held senior roles at Amazon, Cisco and General Electric. He will take over daily operations at Vivid Seats – the largest independent ticket resale service North America, and a competitor to the likes of Ticketmaster Resale/TicketsNow and eBay-owned StubHub – from co-founders Eric Vassilatos and Jerry Bednyak, who remain co-chairmen of the company’s board.

“Stan’s experience driving incremental growth, strategic partnership development and innovative operations makes him an ideal fit to further advance Vivid Seats and the ticket purchasing experience,” says Bednyak, who with Vassilatos founded Chicago-based Vivid Seats as a start-up in 2001. “I am confident that he’ll take the company to the next phase of its corporate evolution and look forward to working with him.”

“I want to thank the founders and Vivid Seats’ shareholders for the opportunity to lead such an exceptional company of great people during a time of growth and innovation in the marketplace,” adds Chia (pictured). “I’ve always had a passion for live events and technology, and I am excited to work with the Vivid Seats team to provide consumers the best experience in online ticketing.”

Vivid Seats is backed by private-equity firms Vista Equity Partners and GTCR, the latter of which acquired a significant stake last May.

 


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More Google resale reactions: “Some distance left to go”

With new global restrictions now live on the use of Google AdWords by secondary ticketing sites, UK anti-touting campaign group FanFair Alliance has “unequivocally welcomed” the update to Google’s ad policies – but warned there is still room for improvement if the search giant is serious about cracking down on dishonest ticket resellers.

As required by Google’s new ‘event ticket reseller policy’, all major online secondary outlets – including Get Me In! and Seatwave in the UK, Ticketmaster Resale in Australia, SeekGeek, TicketsNow and Vivid Seats in the US and StubHub and Viagogo internationally – have put up notices making clear they are resale sites, and that prices may be above face value.

However, the same wording isn’t included in the ads themselves, meaning a Google search, for example, for “Kendrick Lamar tickets” still brings up scores of resale sites as the top results, with no indication they are not the primary sellers.

In a statement, FanFair identifies this lack of consistency as the “one crucial area” where more needs to be done, saying that while it welcomes Google’s “proactive involvement to bring further transparency to the ticket resale market”, the “largest resale sites still fail to make clear that they are secondary platforms, listing secondhand tickets.

“Given their continued prominence on search pages, the implication remains that these are authorised primary sellers or ‘official sites’. That is simply not the case. Until their ad messaging is amended, we suspect UK ticket buyers will continue to be misled.

“Until ad messaging is amended, we suspect ticket buyers will continue to be misled”

“This is something we look forward to discussing with Google and will urge them to act upon. Unless secondary ticketing sites are forced to ‘be honest’, the full consumer benefits of certification are unlikely to be achieved.”

Elsewhere in the UK industry, Mark Gasson, founder of primary ticket agency Gigantic, urges Google to go on step further in totally excluding secondary sellers from its search results. “While we welcome these changes that help to protect customers from being deceived when searching for tickets online, we would like to see this as the beginning rather than the end in the attempt to safeguard online ticketing,” he tells IQ. “In time, we would want to see all secondary sites excluded from all ticket searches and be restricted to pure secondary tickets searches.

“As it stands, some customers will still not see past the warnings and will end up paying more than they need to for their tickets. This not only misleads customers but also impacts on their potential spend on other concerts.”

“Google’s moves to ban misleading adverts from the secondary sites on its search engines is a welcome move, and a step in the right direction which should stop a lot of people being ripped off,” adds Dan Ealam, director of promoter DHP Family.

“Having seen firsthand the pain these unethical sites can cause consumers through false claims of being official, financial heartache for music fans and sometimes even selling non-existent tickets, we feel there is still some distance left to go, but this is a good starting point from Google.”

 


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PE firm GTCR invests in Vivid Seats

Chicago-based private-equity firm GTCR today announced it is to make a “strategic investment” in secondary ticketing site Vivid Seats.

Vivid, also based in Chicago, was reported in March to be seeking a buyer for its ticket resale business, believed to be the third largest in the US after Ticketmaster and StubHub.

GTCR, whose other tech investments include include software developer Cision, billboard ad company Fairway Outdoor Advertising, broadcast advertising platform GTN and driver-safety business Lytx, says its cash will help to “grow and develop the company’s technology and service offerings” – although existing investor Vista Equity Partners will maintain a “significant ownership stake”.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Vista is believed to value Vivid Seats at around US$1.5 billion.

“GTCR brings significant resources and experience in building industry leading companies, and we believe they will be a valuable resource in the long-term expansion of our business”

“The Vivid Seats team has built a tremendous business that is well-positioned for long-term success,” comments GTCR managing director David Donnini. “The impressive growth over the last decade is a testament to their customer service, operating excellence and proprietary technology platform.”

In a joint statement, Vivid co-founders Jerry Bednyak and Eric Vassilatos add: “We are excited to partner with GTCR in the next stage of Vivid Seats’ evolution. GTCR brings significant resources and experience in building industry leading companies, and we believe they will be a valuable resource in the long-term expansion of our business.

“We would also like to thank Vista for their support and look forward to their continued partnership.”

 


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Vivid Seats courting buyers

Vista Equity Partners, the parent company of Vivid Seats, is reportedly seeking a buyer for the US secondary ticketing site.

Chicago-based Vivid, founded in 2001, lists tickets for sporting events, concerts and theatre shows in the US and Canada. According to TechCrunch, Vista – which acquired Vivid Seats for US$850 million last January – values the company at around $1.5 billion.

Vivid is believed to be the third-largest secondary ticket outlet in the US, behind StubHub and Ticketmaster.

TechCrunch suggests potential buyers include tech companies – although Amazon and Priceline have apparently already considered, and ruled out, an acquisition – and rival private-equity firms such as Carlyle Group.

Vista also holds majority stakes in several event-management companies, including Active Network and Cvent, the latter of which it acquired for $1.65bn – considered by some to be undervalued – last April.

 


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More media outlets seeking ticketing integration

Sports broadcast giant ESPN has joined forces with Vivid Seats, becoming the latest media outlet to sign a potentially lucrative deal with a secondary ticket agency.

Under the agreement, Vivid ticket listings will be integrated into ESPN’s digital platforms, “allowing users to conveniently access and purchase tickets to their favourite sporting events” and ensuring sports fans in the US “have an industry leading ticket-buying experience”, says a statement from Chicago-based Vivid Seats.

ESPN’s digital offerings – which include ESPN.com and a host of apps and regional websites – attracted an average of more than 110m million unique monthly users in 2016, accounting for 29% of total sports news readership.

Vivid’s deal with ESPN is its third such tie-up in six months, following a two-year agreement with FoxSports.com to become its exclusive online ticket provider, signed in September, and its being named exclusive secondary ticket partner for music news website Consequence of Sound in December.

“This deal represents a true collaboration”

Rival site StubHub, meanwhile, is official ticketing partner of sports news site SB Nation and food guide Eater – StubHub ticket widgets are embedded in team and fixture pages on SB Nation, and recommend events near featured restaurants on Eater – as part of a deal with publisher Vox Media.

Comment on its partnership with Vivid, ESPN’s executive vice-president of global advertising revenue and sales operations, Eric Johnson (pictured), says: “Vivid Seats’ dedication and prioritisation to serve sports fans fits well with ESPN’s long-standing mission.

“This deal represents a true collaboration in which both sides have agreed to regularly share key metrics in an effort to collectively learn, make adjustments if necessary and ultimately maximise performance.”

 


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CoS, Vivid Seats in secondary ticketing tie-up

Vivid Seats has been named the ‘exclusive secondary ticket partner’ of influential music and film website Consequence of Sound (CoS), integrating its event listings into CoS in a move it says will “streamline the ticket-buying process for music fans interested in attending concerts and other live events all over the country”.

The deal is the second tie-up between a media organisation and secondary ticketing site in as many months, mirroring the recently announced partnership between Vox Media (SB Nation, Eater) and StubHub.

It also sees Vivid sponsor the CoS Festival Outlook channel, and the launch of a new weekly email “highlighting the hottest tickets to buy” on Vivid Seats.

“We are excited to partner with an industry leader while providing our readers with streamlined access to the secondary market”

“Vivid Seats has long been one of our favourite ticketing sites, and we are excited to partner with an industry leader while providing our readers with streamlined access to the secondary market,” says CoS founder and CEO Alex Young (pictured). “We anticipate this partnership will allow Consequence of Sound to continue to provide benefits to our readership which no other publication provides.”

“We are very excited about partnering with a fellow Chicago company, especially a leading music publication like Consequence of Sound,” adds Vivid Seats’ director of business development, Alexia Caulk. “Our focus is to leverage our platform and create more convenient ways for fans to purchase tickets. We are excited to create compelling editorials for their readership as well.”

 


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