Sports Illustrated announced a new ticketing retail platform this week, SI Tix, with hopes of disrupting the traditional resale marketplace system. Beyond the weight that the brand itself carries, particularly with sports fans, SI Tix is attempting to poach customers from outfits like StubHub and Vivid Seats by offering a uniquely low service charge. Rather than the standard 20-30 percent that the more established marketplaces tack on at the end of the transaction, SI Tix is offering customers who pay for their order using Venmo to pay a flat rate – $10 per order.
On orders for marquee events, the savings could prove to be quite substantial, as 30% of a Super Bowl ticket order would be several orders of magnitude higher than the SI Tix model.
“With live events poised to make a triumphant return, our goal for SI Tix is to disrupt the ticketing industry in a major way with a platform created specifically for fans,” says Corey Salter, COO of Authentic Brands Group, which owns the Sports Illustrated brand. “After an unprecedented year that rocked the sports and entertainment worlds to the core, we are thrilled to be the first media company ever to launch a ticketing platform and are excited to be the first service to offer a $10 flat fee.”
That $10 fee is exclusive to purchases using Venmo to power the checkout. Paypal and credit cards are also accepted, but will incur a more standard service charge percentage compared to competitors. The model appears broadly similar to that of Ticket Club, which uses a membership system rather than a specific payment provider – but offers members resale tickets at what amounts to a wholesale price rather than a service charge model. It is clear that the company is betting on the leveraging of the Sports Illustrated brand and the Venmo integration to generate brand awareness from the jump to counteract a natural deficiency in margin with such a model that makes it difficult to compete for clicks efficiently using search engine marketing programs such as Google and Bing’s ads.
It is unclear at the company’s launch whether Sports Illustrated intends to go fully into the ticket resale business and establish a marketplace exchange of its own. For the time being, it appears that the company is relying on a model of using trusted ticket broker partners and aggregators to power its inventory, which it touts as being “millions of tickets to more than 100,000 concerts, theatre and sporting events across the globe.” Ticketing industry vets dot the masthead at launch. Sophie Martin, VP of Operations, is a former executive at TicketNetwork and DTI Management. VP of Partnerships Nick Mazzei is a veteran of 1Ticket and DTI, as well as having been a founder of Periodic Tickets. Other executives have extensive experience with Fan Duel, which is not in ticketing, but certainly has a lot of event-based marketing relevance.
Cost savings related to its business model are up front and center on the marketing push at launch. The website page describing the Venmo integration shows a direct price comparision for a Justin Bieber performance in Los Angeles that shows a minimum of $35 in savings compared to other major marketplaces, with the best comparison point a whopping 32 percent below StubHub. Each event page also drives home this concept, showing the theoretical savings of a $10 transaction fee over a traditional markup for any ticket on its marketplace.
Sports Illustrated is launching this new brand at an interesting time for the ticketing world. After a near-complete halt in global live events due to COVID, restrictions are being rolled back throughout the United States and abroad, with forecasts showing that fall and 2022 will be very full, event-wise. And StubHub may be in a uniquely weakened position due to the lingering impacts of consumer anger over its refusal to allow cash refunds for cancelled events except in states where it was required by law.
“The live events industry is continuing to make a safe return, and it’s evident fans have never been more excited to experience their favorite teams, musicians and shows, live and in-person,” said David Lane, CEO, SI Tix. “Our commitment with SI Tix is to put fans first, connecting the largest audience of buyers and sellers in the industry. From our revolutionary $10 flat transaction fee pricing model when paying with Venmo to exclusive offerings and guaranteed 100% refunds on canceled events, we are delivering unparalleled transparency and choice – something we know fans want and deserve as they return to venues around the world.”