While Ticketmaster and Live Nation cleared a major hurdle Tuesday with the UK Competition Commission’s (CC) decision to approve the merger of the two companies, consumer groups blasted the ruling, which reversed preliminary findings the CC made in October.
The CC ruled that the merger of the ticketing and live entertainment industry giants would not adversely impact competition in the UK, in part because neither company controls as much of that market as they reportedly do in the U.S. Combined in the UK, Ticketmaster and Live Nation control a reported 50 percent of the ticketing and live entertainment markets, but in the U.S. that percentage is around 80 percent.
According to TicketNews’s exclusive ticketing industry rankings, Ticketmaster and Live Nation combined own well above 70 percent of the primary ticketing market alone (including TicketWeb, which Ticketmaster owns), and Ticketmaster also plays heavily in the secondary market with its TicketsNow subsidiary and its TicketExchange resale marketplace. Live Nation is by far the world’s dominant live music promotions company, and through its Front Line Management division Ticketmaster is also a huge force on the artist management landscape.
“No matter what the decision is on the other side of the pond, it’s clear in the U.S. market that this merger will restrict choice and competition, leaving consumers with no option but to pay higher prices,” David Balto, former Federal Trade Commission policy director and counsel to the consumer and industry groups that oppose the merger, said in a statement. “The Department of Justice now has an even greater responsibility to side with competition and block this merger.”
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has been reviewing the planned merger on antitrust grounds for the better part of a year and could offer its ruling next month.
The consumer groups, led by the National Consumers League (NCL) and the National Association of Ticket Brokers (NATB), recently launched TicketDisaster.org, a Web site aimed at convincing the DOJ to block the merger.
“[Yesterday’s] stunning reversal by the Competition Commission of their previous position opposing the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger represents, we believe, a flawed analysis of an inherently anti-consumer and anti-competitive merger,” NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg said in a statement. In the October preliminary ruling, the CC said it was concerned that the merger could unfairly limit competition from CTS Eventim, a German ticketing company that helped build Live Nation’s ticketing operation.
“Live Nation’s and Ticketmaster’s market positions in Britain differ significantly from their already monopolistic positions in the U.S.,” Greenberg added. “We urge DOJ regulators to stand firm and conduct a vigorous, independent analysis of the impact on American consumers of this deal.”
News of the UK decision yesterday helped boost the stocks of the two companies (Ticketmaster: TKTM; Live Nation: LYV), both of which are trading at their highest levels in move than a month.
Greenberg continued, “Live Nation’s statement today says that they have ‘listened to our fans, artists, and other parties.’ Where have they been listening? In a sound-proof box? Two Congressional hearings, a letter from fifty Members of Congress and the outrage of untold numbers of consumers should make the message clear – Americans do not want this merger.”