Barry Diller, chairman of Ticketmaster Entertainment, typically likes a good fight when it comes to business, as evidenced by his victory over John Malone and Liberty Media in the dust-up last year over the splitting up of Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp.
But, in a recent interview with USA Today’s David Lieberman, Diller makes it clear that when it comes to the company’s proposed merger with Live Nation, why fight when you can just join forces?
When asked why people shouldn’t be nervous of the two companies linking up, considering their dominance in arena ownership and operation and ticketing, Diller, one of the most influential executives in the media and entertainment industries, said he doesn’t believe the two currently compete against each other.
“Well, you can be nervous all you wish. It sounds awfully arrogant. It’s not meant that way. The thing is: These companies don’t compete with each other directly. We don’t own venues as Live Nation does. And Live Nation just entered the ticketing business but they don’t compete with us at this point. So, it’s vertical, and there’s nothing legally wrong with vertical,” he told USA Today. “The issue is: Will consumers pay more? No. I actually think that what the combination will do will allow us to develop what was really lacking. The big players are getting rather old. The Rolling Stones are out there now. What we don’t have is a great development process for new talent.”
Diller added, “The recorded music business now is, in a sense, the loss leader for live entertainment. And the truth is that they should have symbiotic relationships, and I think we can bring that. But it’s under review at the Justice Department and we’ll know whenever they get around to dealing with this.”
That sounds promising, except that it contradicts Ticketmaster’s previous position about Live Nation when it was ramping up its fledgling ticketing operation last fall. According to former Ticketmaster President and CEO Sean Moriarty, Ticketmaster was threatening to retaliate against venue operations giant SMG and Live Nation. Live Nation had signed SMG as a ticketing partner, and Ticketmaster considered the pairing to be a direct assault on their business.
“Similar to our need to constantly prove our value and re-sign expiring venue contracts in a competitive marketplace, SMG must compete for venue management contracts against AEG, Global Spectrum, VenueWorks and others. If SMG makes decisions which no longer reflect the best interests of their clients, the results will be obvious – and causes us to consider whether we should enter the venue management business as well.”
Diller also calls out artists and others over the lack of transparency in the ticketing industry, without admitting to Ticketmaster’s penchant to withhold ticketing information, and appears to give tacit support to some of the measures being debated by state and federal legislators about shining a more powerful light on the market.
“But here’s the thing: Ticketmaster is the definition of an unloved company. Many more people are denied tickets than we are able to give them because there are only so many seats in the house,” Diller told USA Today. “The problem with the ticketing business is: It’s the essence of non-transparency. And the reason is that everybody has an ax to grind. Artists do not want consumers to know that they have a take of different parts of the ticketing package. People who own venues want to put in service charges. So I think there’s going to be legislation which is going to force transparency, and I think that would be great for everybody.”