As the National Football League looks to grow its appeal to younger audiences, Ticketmaster’s near-monopolistic control over the league’s ticketing process may be coming to a close.
The NFL, which has already experimented with Millennial-targeted actions like broadcasting games on Twitter in 2016 and Amazon.com this coming fall, may end its exclusive arrangement with Ticketmaster parent Live Nation Entertainment (NYSE: LYV) when it comes to a close in 2018. In its place will be an “open” model, which will allow multiple partners and platforms to sell NFL tickets, rather than just one vendor.
Currently, Ticketmaster is the official primary seller for all but one of the NFL’s 32 franchises – The Detroit Lions use Veritix – and also operates the league’s preferred secondary marketplace, the NFL Ticket Exchange. According to a story in Sports Business Journal, the league is convinced it can bring in more revenue with a multi-platform model.
“The idea is to allow tickets to be available in as many places as possible,” a source told SBJ’s Daniel Kaplan & Eric Fisher. “We want to make it easy.”
Live Nation, which announced major profits in Wednesday’s announcement of Q2 earnings – built largely on its foray into the secondary market, has major sway in concert ticketing due to the corporations ownership of venues across the country. But sports venues are a different story, according to the story in Barrons. “Numerous baseball teams have already turned to MLB’s own ticketing platform, while Major League Soccer has an open ticketing arrangement with Seat Geek. The NFL is more powerful than either of those leagues.”
It is unclear how much of a bite any changing of the ticketing arrangement would hurt Live Nation or Ticketmaster, since it’s fair to assume that the operational expertise of the company would have it remain as a major player even in a divided marketplace for football ticketing revenue.
“One team source who supports the transition said one caveat regarding change is that Ticketmaster knows the space and has the proven technical infrastructure to handle the complex processes,” according to the SBJ article “Meanwhile, many of the outlets the league is contemplating using to sell official tickets may never have done so at the scale of the NFL before.”
That scale is certainly daunting, according to 2016 attendance statistics available on ESPN.com, the Dallas Cowboys led the league gate with 1,322,087 fans watching them play, including an average of over 92,000 at each of its eight home games. Even the lowest-attended team in the league – the Oakland Raiders – averaged more than 54,000 at its home dates.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the new arrangement works out if 2018 sees a more open competition for the NFL fan dollars in the ticketing world.