(This story was updated on December 18, 2009, at 5:32pm EST)
Though the current deal is not scheduled to expire until August of 2010 at the earliest, Ticketmaster Entertainment‘s ticketing contract with the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA) could come under some scrutiny over the next couple of months.
The three-year deal gave Ticketmaster the exclusive primary ticketing rights for the authority’s venues, including the Meadownlands’ Izod Center and Giants Stadium, and after the three years there are two one-year extensions that can be exercised that would bring the total number of years to five.
However, should the authority decide not to renew the deal, it has to notify Ticketmaster 180 days (roughly six months) ahead of the August expiration date and issue a Request for Proposal document.
Ticketmaster is in the midst of it one-year settlement with New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram over the way it handled Bruce Springsteen ticket sales last February, and that settlement is set to expire in February 2010, roughly seven months prior to the expiration of the ticketing contract. Among the issues Ticketmaster settled with Milgram included not linking to the company’s TicketsNow secondary ticket Web site, and the company is required to gain approval from the attorney general before engaging in similar activity in the future. Milgram is slated to be replaced by Paula Dow, the new attorney general being appointed by recently elected Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
In addition, how the proposed merger between Ticketmaster and Live Nation, which could be finalized next month, will affect the decision on the contract’s future is another wildcard in the mix. If the deal does not go through, Live Nation could potentially bid on the ticketing contract.
Whether NJSEA will seek to put the contract back out to bid in the spring is unknown, but spokesperson John Samerjan told TicketNews that it’s a possibility. He was quick to add that he is not aware of any current discussions along that vein, and with Christie’s election, several new NJSEA commissioners will be appointed by the governor, so bringing that group up to speed on all authority matters will be an early priority.
“I think it’s too early to say. I haven’t heard anything about that contract yet,” Samerjan said. “But, it’s a fair question. We’ve had a long and good working relationship with Ticketmaster, but it’s common practice that the authority will review contracts and look at the best options.”
Samerjan said the three-year deal with two separate, additional renewal years is nothing new for NJSEA. “It’s fairly common, for example we did that with our refuse removal contract. In our business, where there are a limited number of potential vendors, we sometimes do that,” he said.
However the authority decides to handle the contract, there are several potential vendors that would likely jump at the lucrative deal. New Era Tickets in Philadelphia, Tickets.com, Canada’s AudienceView, TicketWeb (a Ticketmaster company), BrownPaperTickets, ETix.com and digital ticketing specialists Veritix are a few possibilities. TicketNews’s exclusive industry rankings lists several.
U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr., who represents parts of New Jersey with NJSEA venues, has made transparency and fostering competition within the ticketing industry a hallmark of his BOSS Act, legislation aimed at regulating and cleaning up the ticketing industry. Pascrell’s office did not return messages seeking comment by press time.
“If we have the opportunity to bid on that contract, we certainly will,” Jeff Kline, president of Veritix, told TicketNews. “We’re not aware of a new RFP, but we’d be interested.”