November 20, 2009 By Alfred Branch Jr.
In an effort to keep the pressure on legislators and federal regulators, the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB) has teamed up with several consumer protection groups to reiterate its opposition to the proposed merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation.
The NATB and the National Consumers League, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, and Knowledge Ecology International together issued strongly worded statements today against the merger, stressing that it would be a “disaster” for consumers.
“Ticketmaster is well aware that their plans will give them unchecked power to take advantage of consumers who will have no other ticket options,” the group said. “Suggested proposals for a modest spin-off or some other type of remedy are insufficient to protect consumers. Bringing more corporate interests to the table appears to be their last ditch attempt to pretend there are no competitive problems and fool the public – and the authorities – into believing they won’t have full control over tickets, venues, artists, and prices. But that’s clearly not the case.”
The two companies have said they need to merge in order to help save each other and improve the ticketing and concert industries, which they currently dominate. Critics have said that the combined Live Nation Entertainment, as it would be called, would hold too much monopolistic power of the live entertainment landscape and would hurt industry competition and consumers.
Both companies are reportedly working hard to gain the favor of antitrust investigators for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the two are said to be considering several concession scenarios in order to make the deal happen. Among the options that Ticketmaster and Live Nation could consider include the sale of certain assets, such as Ticketmaster’s TicketsNow or Paciolan divisions, or Live Nation’s ticketing operation.
John Breyault, vice president for Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud for the National Consumers League, told TicketNews that he does not see a path to approval for the merger.
“I can’t envision a scenario where we would support the merger as it’s currently constructed,” Breyault said. “This is a deal that we believe will result in higher ticket prices for consumers and fewer choices for artists who want to avoid being forced into working with Ticketmaster or Live Nation.”
Breyault continued, “We will continue to raise the concerns of consumers regarding this merger. We want to make sure DOJ and other policymakers understand the disastrous impact that this merger would have on consumers and workers.”
The NATB, realizing that the potential deal is entering the final stages, linked up with the groups as a reminder to government officials that they still find the deal problematic, despite reports that cable television giant Comcast is talking to the two companies to possibly acquire assets to help push the merger along.
“There seems to be little dispute after extensive Congressional hearings that the merger of Ticketmaster and Live Nation raises very profound competitive concerns,” the group said. “That is why fifty Members of Congress – an unprecedented number – have written to the DOJ with concerns about the merger. The Department of Justice has a unique opportunity to protect consumers by preventing this anticompetitive merger and preserving competition and choice in the marketplace.”
They continued, “Any proposed concessions to DOJ, including transferring some assets to other corporations with relationships to Ticketmaster are non-starters. They will not protect consumers from the looming threat of monopolistic control. Ticketmaster may also propose to agree to some type of limits on their behavior post merger, but for a firm that exploits consumers on a daily basis, those promises are simply not credible. The DOJ has every right, and responsibility, to block this merger and protect what remains of an open, competitive, and consumer-friendly market.”