With the economy in difficult straits, now was the best time for Live Nation and Ticketmaster Entertainment to merge, principals in the deal told...

With the economy in difficult straits, now was the best time for Live Nation and Ticketmaster Entertainment to merge, principals in the deal told investors during a conference call earlier today.

While the proposed merger is far from complete, the two companies believe they will close on the deal sometime in the second half of the year, provided they receive federal regulatory approval.

Barry Diller, who will become Chairman of the Board of Live Nation Entertainment, which the new company will be named, said that he had hoped to bring the two companies together for some time, but the current “economic difficulties and uncertainties,” coupled with the unique skill sets of Live Nation CEO and President Michael Rapino and Ticketmaster Entertainment CEO Irving Azoff made the deal particularly attractive.

But Diller, anticipating the chief complaint about the deal, namely that ticket prices could rise because one company would control the vast majority of the concert landscape, emphasized that artists and their representatives set ticket prices at the primary level, not Ticketmaster or Live Nation. In addition, he believes fans will benefit from the merger because of improved technologies and better ticketing options.



In fact, Diller took great pains to specifically try to play down a recent class action lawsuit filed in Canada against Ticketmaster and its TicketsNow subsidiary over the way the two have handled ticketing for some shows.

Claiming the matter was “misunderstood” and was due to a “glitch in the technical system,” Diller said credit card company VISA was partly to blame for the incident, where fans were rerouted to TicketsNow where tickets cost more, when they had tried to buy tickets at face value on Ticketmaster’s Web site.

“Ticketmaster is not in the business of denying anyone tickets to then push them to our secondary ticket marketplace,” he said. The company has also been criticized for similar measures in the U.S., most recently surrounding ticket sales for upcoming Bruce Springsteen shows.

Live Nation’s fledgling ticketing operation is barely a month old, and already it has experienced a rough start because of trouble the platform had handling Phish ticket sales.

“The better job we do at getting the right fan in the right seat at the right time, the more money our clients will make,” Rapino said, echoing Diller’s comments. He added that Live Nation will continue to use its newly created ticketing operation and will honor its contract with German ticketing company CTS Eventim, the company that helped build the platform.

Ticketing may have been a focus of the conference call, but Azoff also wanted to stress that he did not believe that promoters and venues will suffer as a result of the deal despite the two companies potentially controlling so much of the concert landscape; estimates place that percentage at upwards of 70 percent.

“There’s plenty of room for promoters to operate,” Azoff said. “And, we think this combination will bring together lots of marketing opportunities.”

By Alfred Branch Jr.