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Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard takes a swipe at StubHub and the secondary ticket market

By Alfred Branch Jr.

Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard took to Twitter late last week to offer a few choice words for ticket resale marketplace StubHub, following the secondary ticket company's support of the Fan Freedom Project, which opposes restrictive paperless ticketing.

"StubHub thx for coming clean - you stand with scalpers to take tix from soccer moms and kids and sell them back to them at 5x face value [sic]," Hubbard wrote on Twitter Friday night, February 25. "Did u know 94% of fans would rather have access to good seats than transfer their ticket? We do (we listen, you play S.Carolina politics) [sic]."

Yet, in his angry tweets, Hubbard appears to be hitting StubHub on the same issue that Ticketmaster is vulnerable because Ticketmaster has its own secondary ticket entities, TicketExchange and TicketsNow, which also resell tickets at a premium above face value.

On February 22, the nonprofit group Fan Freedom Project (FFP) launched to education fans, legislators and the ticketing industry about the difficulties that restrictive paperless ticketing poses on the transfer of tickets. Restrictive paperless tickets, which FFP said Ticketmaster and some other ticketing providers use, do not allow people to transfer their tickets, tying the purchase to a specific credit card or ID. In some instances, resale or transfer is allowed, but only through the ticket provider's proprietary Web site and sometimes with added fees or price floors or caps. In addition, cash ticket purchases at the box office also are prohibited through restrictive paperless tickets.

On February 23, following the announcement of the launch of FFP, StubHub tweeted a link to its followers of the FFP Web site "to ensure you continue to have the right to buy and sell tickets in a free and open marketplace." The company also reportedly sent out emails alerting customers about the group.

The StubHub tweet and email, two days before Hubbard's, appears to have been the catalyst that led to the angry response by Hubbard. StubHub spokesperson Glenn Lehrman told TicketNews that the company had no comment about the matter.

Ticketmaster did not respond to a message seeking comment.

StubHub, and in particular its president Chris Tsakalakis, has long been a critic of restrictive paperless tickets, and last year even warned customers that some paperless ticket purchases from its marketplace might be refunded.

Ticketmaster is staking a lot of resources on its paperless ticketing system, outfitting a growing number of the venues it has under contract with the technology, which it says offers fans more security and convenience.

In many cases, the technology has worked smoothly, but in other instances it has not, and it has been under fire in some quarters. StubHub and FFP acknowledge that paperless tickets can be a positive, but only if easy transferability is maintained.

In New York, legislators passed a law to ensure that events that use paperless tickets also offer traditional paper tickets as an option, and last week Connecticut legislators began discussing a similar bill.

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