Fans have bought game tickets online for well over a decade. In that time, online ticket buying has transformed from a novel concept into the best way to score live event tickets. It has grown into an essential part of the sports industry, both on primary and secondary markets. Ticket sellers must establish an online presence; sports fans expect it. I won’t go so far as to suggest that online ticketing has been revolutionized in recent years. I will say the number of competitors on the scene has exploded while subtle, and not so subtle, innovations have flooded the market. And new technology has armed companies with a variety of ways to distribute their rolls of tickets online.
The industry is in constant flux so, while ticket windows and call centers are going extinct, careers in ticket operations offer more growth potential than ever before. Fans that love live sporting events are spoiled for choice. Translation: the ticketing business is booming.
Ticketmaster & Live Nation
The 2010 merger of these two major industry players into what’s now known as Live Nation Entertainment was dubbed by The Economist as a “vertically integrated behemoth”. Ticketmaster is one of the oldest, most well known ticket sellers in the market. Founded way back in 1976—well before online ticket buying was a thing—Ticketmaster added barcoding to tickets in 1994, launched its online website the following year and had its first internet ticket sale in 1996. That history of innovation, an established market presence and exclusive agreements with hundreds of venues made it a perfect partner for concert promotions maestro, Live Nation. Live Nation’s angle is to be, first and foremost, a promoter. The company has worked with big name artists like U2, Madonna, Shakira and Jay-Z along with many others to produce and promote thousands of live events each year. It also owns and operates over one hundred venues across the globe. Live Nation Entertainment’s arms reach from ticket sales and promotion to event production and venue ownership justifying that somewhat intimidating moniker as a “vertically integrated behemoth”.
This online ticket exchange and reseller preaches a simple mission: help fans find fun. StubHub, acquired by eBay in 2007, makes its money as a secondary marketplace for sports, concerts, comedy and theater. It’s the established brand in ticket resell and claims itself to be first to market in “the introduction of the first ticketing application, the first interactive seat mapping tool…”. Consider it a digital scalper and the ultimate ticket middleman between those that want to buy and those that want to sell tickets. Let’s be fair, StubHub is a truly legitimate digital scalper with a platinum partner list—over 60 professional teams, NBC Digital, ESPN and more—that gives them that best-in-the-business shine. The world’s largest secondary ticket marketplace was considered just another disrupter in online ticketing when it was founded back in 2000. StubHub is now a household name and likely the first place you go to unload unwanted tickets and find otherwise unavailable stubs.
This Hollywood-based company dubs itself as the ticketing agency that “make live events affordable for everyone” advertising savings of “up to 60% below box office price”. ScoreBig’s focus is not event exclusivity, slick ticket exchanges or an offering of the widest array of live events tickets. Instead, this fast growing business—the company raised $18.3 million in new funding last year—has taken the “name your price” angle to ticket buying. Search for an event, choose a section (not a specific seat) in the venue and enter what you’re willing to spend. Think Priceline. If your bid is too low your offer is declined. If it’s a fair market offer then you’re headed out for the night of your life. How is ScoreBig able to offer fans such deep discounts? Partnerships—ones that it does not divulge—give it access to cheaper, unpublished prices while its algorithm matches buyers and sellers to maximize both ticket prices and attendance. Want another differentiator? You won’t pay those nitpicky fees or shipping costs often associated with online ticketing companies. The business model piques the interest of internet savvy fans that are comfortable with trading some level of certainty for potentially big savings.
How does a company that launched in 2009 already proclaim itself “the web’s largest ticket search engine”? By turning into the Kayak, Orbitz and Expedia of sports, concert and theater tickets over the last half dozen years. Find the live event you’re interested in and compare ticket prices aggregated from sites including: ScoreBig, TicketCity, Razorgator, Fanxchange and more. Feel like a smart consumer by reviewing your results’ Deal Score, a ticket value rating based on a complex, exclusive algorithm. The entire checkout process happens on SeatGeek—you aren’t linked over to another website—who will transfer the payment to the true ticket vendor. The business model creates better consumer decisions for fans that want to save time and money, two concepts usually at odds with one another. Investors, along with well-known athletes and musicians, have bought into the strategy; SeatGeek nabbed $35 million in funding from Accel Partners, the Manning brothers, Carmelo Anthony and others in August 2014. SeatGeek has grabbed a nice chunk of the market by growing fast, concentrating engineering resources into mobile and a very marketable Deal Score algorithm while developing partnerships that bring dozens of secondary marketing sites onto the SeatGeek family couch.