The Evolution of the Billion Dollar Ticketing Industry

(Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)
(Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY Sports)

If you’ve ever attended a sporting event, concert, festival, or even inauguration, odds are you purchased your access and were issued a ticket. What seems simple is, in fact, a multi-billion dollar technology industry with household names like eBay, Ticketmaster, Apple, and other billion dollar technology companies jostling for market share.

Four questions offer us insight into how the fight for your tickets will change the way we attend events in the future:

1) Who are you and how can we sell you more?

Big data has found its way into our daily lives. Search for a car online and you’ll be inundated with automobile ads for the next week. Need directions? They’re free on your phone anytime. Google, Facebook, and Twitter know what you like, what you’re looking for, and where you spend your time. Why? Marketers want to know who you are to sell you goods and services.

Teams and promoters are no different. They’re following the trend of offering you a convenience in a trade for information. The most popular today:

  • Mag-Stripe Entry: Easy entry into game by using a “mag-stripe” (think Credit Card or Drivers License swiped at the door for entry) instead of the traditional tickets. All you need to do is provide your name, address, and the information for the card
  • Ticket Forwarding: Send tickets to friends and colleagues online with just one click after providing email addresses and information for all parties
  • Stored Value: Preload your ticket or a branded card online with money which can be spend at the arena on food or merchandise, which can be tracked with your information
  • On-site check-in: Print a ticket right at the game or have your mobile phone check you in with geo-nav the minute you enter a building.

These innovations make the fan experience better but make no mistake, the goal is data. Who are you and how can we target you better?

2) Is your ticket a license or your property?

From this simple question blossomed a multi-billion dollar business led by ebay owned StubHub. When you buy a ticket can you do with it as you please, even when it contradicts the desires of the venue and the promoter?

The free and open transfer of tickets has allowed companies like StubHub, Viagogo, and others to create the secondary market, basically middle-man marketplaces for the aftermarket selling of tickets. Content providers everywhere are working feverishly to find a way to keep that secondary revenue in their pockets and cut out the middle-men. Current attempts include implementing dynamic pricing of tickets at on-sale with companies like Qcue, “Paperless” events which require the attendee to have the credit card used to purchase the tickets, and digital ticketing with transfer restrictions. So far, none of these have worked, however it is still early.

StubHub vs. Ticketmaster. Its billion dollar tech firm against billion dollar tech firm and that is always a good thing for innovation and the fans.

3) Will corporate fat-cats actually bring prices down for families?

Live events changed forever when corporations and marketers realized they can be leveraged to sell more diapers, cars, beer, and other goods and services. Teams and leagues began building luxury suites, signing hyper-lucrative TV deals with plenty of ad space to sell, and plastering logos on everything in sight.

In the short term, this has led to ticket prices inflating seemingly endlessly as companies buying tickets have deep pockets. Marketers today, however, are starting to realize much of the value of the event is in the ambiance, the signage, and the TV product. What does this mean? Teams are starting to pass on the few extra bucks they could squeeze out of the face-painter everyday fan to assure they continue to attend and make their brand, and sponsorship, more valuable.

(Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)
(Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports)

4) Your seat vs. your couch.

Around the clock sports networks, affordable high definition televisions, and robust coverage have transformed the viewing experience. Marketers want to be where you are, whether at the game or on your couch.

This often discussed dynamic presents a real problem for the content providers. Tickets are only a part of their revenue equation. They want you paying for parking, buying merchandise, and loading up on food and beverage from them on game day. In addition to this direct revenue, they want to sell you as captive eyeballs to the companies buying all the in-game signage and sponsorship around the venue.

As the fan adapts, so too will teams with different amenities like fantasy football lounges (Jacksonville Jaguars), portable TV’s (Chicago Bears), Nightclubs (Miami Marlins), more “intimate,” venues (Sacramento Kings), and, of course, better deals on tickets to lure fans to the game.


Tickets are big business. Commercial opportunity is a terrific incentive for innovation in a race to own the customer and offer more convenient and robust options to fans everywhere. Technology will dramatically change the way we consume live events, and the customer will come out the winner.


Tony is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spotlight Ticket Management. At Spotlight, Tony is responsible for the day-to-day executive management of over 9 million corporate and business owned tickets globally with a value over a billion dollars. Bio

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