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THE TICKETING GOLD RUSH AS COMPANIES BIG AND SMALL DEVELOP EVER MORE INGENIOUS WAYS TO DISTRIBUTE TICKETS, THE WORLD’S ONLINE BUSINESS CORPORATIONS HAVE BEEN QUIETLY OBSERVING - UNTIL NOW. AMAZON, EBAY, FACEBOOK AND CHINESE INTERNET E-COMMERCE GIANT ALIBABA ARE AMONG THE FIRST TO GET INVOLVED, AS GORDON MASSON DISCOVERS…

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or decades, ticketing has been a fairly conservative business. Box offices producing their own concert passes have evolved into specialist companies developing the technology to take over those operations and have established exclusivity, wherever possible, at venues. In recent years, as the barriers to entry have been lowered, dozens of start-ups have launched, promising smart solutions to ticketing dilemmas. But now, as the power of the Internet and social media pave the way to potentially millions of new customers, e-commerce conglomerates are turning their attention to ticketing as another potential revenue stream to keep shareholders happy. Having seen its platform used to resell tickets for a number of years, eBay capitalised on that position of strength in 2007 when it purchased secondary-ticketing market leader StubHub for a reported $310million (€274m), and in the years since, it has steadily migrated ticket sales through eBay to StubHub’s web-based inventory process. At the same time, StubHub has gone to great efforts to shed its image as an online tout, and to include event discovery and primary ticketing among its services, while the company has also signed a slew of deals with sports franchises and, notably, is a partner of AEG’s primary AXS ticketing business.

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StubHub has not published historical financial results, but earlier this year, parent company eBay said the subsidiary took in revenues of $725m (€642m) in 2015 alone, accounting for roughly 9% of eBay’s total revenues, while analysts estimate its impact on overall profits is even more significant. StubHub revenues increased by 40% in Q2 of 2016, earning its parent company $225m (€199m). With such obvious returns boosting the bottom line, eBay is delving ever deeper into the ticketing business: it recently acquired Ticket Utils, an independent software provider that purports to help large ticket sellers manage inventory and distribution. With the acquisition, ticket sellers on StubHub who have a large number of tickets can now access tools and features to more easily manage their ticket inventory, pricing and distribution. And in a clear sign that eBay sees value through consolidation, in May 2016 it acquired Spanish-based secondary marketplace, TicketBis, which operates in 47 countries, and which it intends to roll into the StubHub business. But eBay is not alone. Other online behemoths are taking a punt on ticketing, safe in the knowledge that the relatively low cost of entry will not have repercussions on the mainstay of their business. “They’re not interested in terms of operations and mechanics,” comments ticketing industry consultant (and

International Ticketing Yearbook executive editor), Tim Chambers. “What the online companies do want is to get closer to that emotional content: consumers define themselves by their emotional connections to Beyoncé or Chelsea Football Club or WWF or whatever. People aggregate around artists and bands – and that’s what piques the interest of those in the business of attracting consumer loyalty.”

DEEP POCKETS It’s not just e-commerce corporates looking to muscle in on the game. Telecoms companies have been exploiting the link with live music for years through venue and event sponsorship and subscriber ticketing offers. More recently global broadcast corporation Sky started its own ticketing company in the UK to tap into exclusive sports events, which it ties in with broadcasting rights. And quite what Twitter’s long-term ambitions are in the ticketing sphere are unclear, but the fact that they hired former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard as head of global media and commerce suggests that ticketing was, at least, a consideration. Hubbard’s departure in May this year may well mean that’s no longer the case, however. Elsewhere, Amazon, which until recently was the world’s biggest online retailer, last year launched its own ticketing division, using the UK and Ireland as its testing ground.

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