The National Football League and Ticketmaster are close to a renewal of their existing deal, one which makes the Live Nation-owned ticketing provider the league’s official Ticket Exchange, according to a report from Sports Business Journal. The extension would be through the 2026 season, which is four years tacked on to the current deal, which lapses at the end of the upcoming 2022 season.
The deal will reportedly continue the “open” architecture that creates a unified ticketing system for both primary and resale tickets, as well as opening things up for other “official” marketplaces to offer ticket resale validated by the Ticketmaster system. The league begins its annual meeting on Sunday at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida.
SeatGeek and StubHub, which are the other two ticket marketplaces that have maintained “official” status on the ticket resale system managed through their competitors based in Beverly Hills, both had reportedly pursued a deal to take Ticketmaster’s place. SeatGeek has made inroads to the NFL business, serving as the primary ticketing vendor for the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, and Arizona Cardinals, while StubHub has stuck with its core business on the resale side. Neither, however, had success in dislodging the longtime preferred vendor from its official status for the time being.
Data from the forced transition to mobile-only ticketing systems has reportedly been central to the deal for the league. While many fans would prefer to be issued hard stock tickets, teams have increasingly stripped that choice from them in favor of walled garden app-based ticketing systems, which allow teams to harvest enormous amounts of user data from the ticketing process, as well as tracking any and all transfer activity, setting minimum ticket sales prices on resale platforms, or shutting down transfer entirely except in states where such practices are forbidden by law.
According to SBJ, as recently as 2017, only 10 percent of tickets were issued in a mobile-only format, with consumers overwhelmingly preferring either “hard stock” or print-at-home tickets that allow for convenience (and privacy). The 2021 season saw the mobile ticket numbers at close to 100 percent league-wide, with even the Buffalo Bills, who are required by New York state law to offer consumers a choice outside of a restrictive ticketing system, using COVID as an excuse to skirt that legal requirement.
The reported renewal despite other options of such an exclusivity comes as something of a surprise, given that it places all of the technological “eggs” related to NFL ticketing in one basket where resale is concerned. The issues with such a concentration were apparent at the Super Bowl this year, where an outage within the Ticketmaster system meant that last-minute ticket buyers were locked out of purchase or even transfer options, even if they had purchased through other marketplaces including the sanctioned StubHub or SeatGeek options, which have no choice but to pass all orders through Ticketmaster’s technology.
Part of the terms of the deal includes a prohibition on any team making a primary ticketing deal that lasts beyond the 2027 expiration of the deal that is expected to be signed this week.