StubHub Signs Deal with MLB, but What About Ticketmaster?

An announcement was made today about a deal between StubHub and Major League Baseball (MLB) for the resale of season tickets in the secondary market. You can read The New York Times article (which is more detailed) or the short article at the Los Angeles Times (what can I say, I’m bi-coastal).

In short, the articles say that StubHub will become baseball’s official online ticket reseller for season seats next season. They will be the only ones allowed to offer online reselling on any MLB-operated website. But what about Ticketmaster…?

Ticketmaster has contracts with a number of MLB teams to sell their tickets. It doesn’t matter if it’s online or not, as Ticketmaster’s contracts basically say that they are the exclusive seller of tickets electronically, which would include the web, etc. From my past experiences, working for Ticketmaster and Tickets.com (not to mention being a client of several different ticketing companies as well, including those mentioned above), I know that there is some “wiggle room” in contracts (e.g. group tickets are often handled differently, the initial sale of season seats, and small allotments of the house (“normally” sold seats available to the public) are available for alternative sales methods (through the band, fan clubs, via American Express, etc.)), but this is going to be a problem….

The articles state that MLB is “comfortable” that the deal doesn’t violate contracts, but I think that might be pushing the envelope a bit far as to tear it. For those that want to go after Ticketmaster as monopolistic (as the second/third to last paragraph in the NY Times article says of the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA), good luck on that one :-)! That issue was brought up by Pearl Jam and even got hearings in Washington D.C. regarding anti-trust, to no avail. Since that time, Ticketmaster’s market share has actually decreased due to competitors, so I don’t think that argument that they are monopolistic holds water. The reverse could be said of StubHub which controls most of the secondary reselling market of season seats, so they might not want to “poke that bear with a stick” or open up that can of worms!

So how is this going to actually work…? StubHub says that they are developing systems to execute these transactions… good luck! For MLB teams that use Tickets.com’s software for sales (a lot of them do), that won’t be a problem ’cause the company and it’s software were purchased a while back by MLB Media (the online division of MLB, so wouldn’t there be a monopolistic/conflict of interest issue there, by self dealing to “close out a competitor” who may offer better service…?). In this instance, I’m sure they are just going to program through a set of API’s to interact between the two systems…. But if the MLB team uses a Ticketmaster system, then it won’t work! Ticketmaster will never allow StubHub to access their API’s (and vise-versa I would guess 🙂 …), so for those teams, they will have to deal with two different systems. As a box office, the last thing that you want to deal with, especially on a busy game day, is two different systems tracking/managing your inventory. That’s just a nightmare waiting to happen…. And with the advent of barcode readers for scanning tickets for admission, the problem extends outside the box office to the gate, where different systems/barcodes will require different ticket taking/scanning techniques, creating a nightmare for the ticket takers and event staff, not to mention potential headaches for the attendees and the customer service nightmares that will accompany them :-)!

While I am sure MLB is just trying to maximize the revenue from this segment of the market, which is considerable, and share that revenue with their teams, it may not be best for the teams in the end. A “one size fits all” model isn’t good when applied across a wide breadth of clients, nor is “forcing something down their throats”… some teams are going to get “left out” and not get the service they need. I said many of the same things when MLB purchased Tickets.com, which they did not only to provide services to their own teams, but to build the company into the “next Ticketmaster” (that’s a whole other conversation/article, contact me if you want to discuss 🙂 ), which is proving harder than they ever thought it would be, for reasons that they just don’t “get” ’cause they have never walked a mile in their clients shoes….