Online auctions giant eBay is planning to launch a version of its StubHub ticket marketplace division in the UK by the end of the year.
The move, first reported by the Financial Times, would put the company in direct competition with Seatwave and viagogo, the latter of which was established by StubHub co-founder Eric Baker.
In addition, StubHub will be competing with Ticketmaster-owned GetMeIn, which will mean that a secondary ticket market that is significantly smaller than its counterpart in the U.S. will be crowded with four major ticket exchanges. For years, eBay Tickets has operated in the UK, but has not proved to be much of a factor as viagogo and Seatwave, so bringing in a recognized brand such as StubHub should help those efforts.
A StubHub spokesperson declined to comment about the move into the UK, but an eBay spokesperson told the Financial Times that they envision success, in part because UK fans are already comfortable buying tickets from online secondary agents.
“From a UK perspective, our ambitions would be to provide the same kind of top-class customer service that has enabled us to be the leading secondary ticketing market in the US,” eBay said.
Joe Cohen, a former Ticketmaster executive who founded Seatwave, told TicketNews that StubHub may have to slightly tweak its formula in the UK. One planned change is that StubHub is expected to open standalone retail outlets in the UK, something it does not have in the U.S. At large-scale events and near some stadiums in the U.S., the company often sets up hospitality or customer service locations for fans who experience issues with their tickets.
“StubHub built a great U.S. business largely based on the sports industry,” Cohen said. “The nuance in the UK is that in soccer, which is the largest sports category by a factor of ten, resale is prohibited or at best fixed at face value while the music category is ascendant. So, StubHub will have to reorient their approach to the business in order to be successful.”
In recent years, StubHub has cultivated more music business by signing ticketing deals with artists like Madonna, but the company’s sports business remains its largest sector.
“Additionally, we’ll now have four exchanges in a market one-sixth the size of the U.S., so it will be interesting to see who plays to win and who plays for share. Stay tuned,” Cohen said.
Baker told TicketNews that he continues to have “positive feelings” and enormous respect for the “very smart” people at StubHub. He added that he envisions the eBay Tickets division “going to zero” once StubHub is on the scene, because StubHub has clearly become the company’s focal point to in the ticket resale market.
He also joked that when he founded viagogo in 2005, he had to learn “the difference between cricket and baseball,” and that he “spoke American and not English.” He said StubHub can expect to experience a similar learning curve.
“StubHub moving into the UK market is not surprising, if anything it was surprising that it took this long,” Baker said.
He added that ultimately, the old adage that a rising tide raises all boats applies to this situation because the move further legitimizes the secondary market in the UK.
“If you were going to eBay to buy tickets, it’s sort of like buying a car without seatbelts. But, we came over here with a safer, more secure option for fans, like selling cars with seatbelts, so bringing in another safe, secure option will be a good thing,” Baker said.