Amazon Will Change The Ticketing Game

The inevitable entry of the ecommerce giant into ticketing dominates PACnet ‘17

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: February 15, 2017

PACnet '17's Geoff Lester, StubHub; Rob Shine, IMG/Learfield Ticket Solutions and Curtis Cheng, DTI Management.

[Editors Note: For further coverage of PACnet ’17, the client and community conference produced by Spectra Ticketing & Fan Engagement, see the March print edition of Venues Today.]

REPORTING FROM NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF. — When the biggest guy on the block makes clear noises about muscling in on your territory, you listen. Clearly spooked, the attendees at Spectra’s annual ticketing conference, PACnet ’17, held at the Newport Beach (Calif.) Marriott Hotel, Feb.13-16, were all eyes and ears to any news coming from giant ecommerce retailer Amazon about their anticipated entry into the U.S. ticketing market.


Already a huge player in the U.K., Amazon has signaled it’s making inroads into the U.S. ticketing market and intends to shake the tree.

“The biggest story for me is Amazon,” said ticketing software company DTI Management’s Curtis Cheng, CEO. “Amazon went into London two-and-a-half years ago. In that short amount of time they are now England’s top ticket seller.”

“Here’s this big mega-company coming to disrupt our industry,” he said. “Seeing what their intentions are, what they plan on doing and what the ticketing ecosystem is going to look like in a few years is something I am clearly following.”

Cheng described a friend who was in the guitar business. “Amazon announced in Q2 of 2013 they were going to get into the guitar business. A year-and-a-half later, my friend’s guitar business was bust and had to file for bankruptcy.”

Geoff Lester, StubHub, was concerned that Amazon was going to not only take out secondary ticket companies. “Their grand plan looks to be to compete with primary ticketing as well. StubHub’s taking a wait-and-see approach, but we’re cautious.”

“What I’m selling to ticketing is consolidation,” said Cheng. “What Amazon is selling is more than that. If someone buys a Redskins ticket, Amazon also wants to sell them a Redskins bed sheet, a Redskins hat and whatever else they can push at the customer.”

“That is scary to me because they are trying to do what we are trying to do — but with every product on earth,” he said. “The uncertainty of what Amazon’s plans are to get into the ticket business, obviously concerns everyone in the ticketing industry.”

“It’s a wait-and-see game,” said Lester. “But based on Amazon’s move into Europe, a move into the U.S. seems all but certain and the industry will not be the same once they launch.”


With Amazon’s entry into consumer-based ticketing looming, the best minds in the current ticketing industry are all scrambling to beat them to the punch.

Taking a play from cable companies, the next big thing looks to be not only selling a fan a ticket, but also selling that fan all the ancillary goods that go with the event. Think of it as bundling like when that cable company offers a discount for buying more than one service such as TV, Internet and cable.

“We are all looking at ways to leverage the sale once we get a customer buying tickets,” said Rob Sine, IMG/Learfield Ticket Solutions. “We’re not far off from selling hotel rooms across from the stadium. We can sell parking, merchandise, experiences and food and beverage, just to name a few things.”


Any discussion of ticketing 2017 would not be complete without talking about the mobile ticketing revolution, often called the ‘mobile first’ strategy.

“Fans are living on their mobile devices,” said Rachel Bomeli, Fox Theatre, Atlanta.  “Especially the millennials. Anyone without a mobile strategy has no way to reach that group.”

Lester said StubHub’s mobile adoption rates are skyrocketing. Three years ago, StubHub had 30-percent mobile traffic and 10- percent transactions from it. Today, they are at 70-percent traffic and 50-percent transactions. “Mobile is life; it’s everything,” he said. “It’s where people engage.”

According to a Google Web Index study, 47 percent of media time is spent online and the average consumer has 3.3 devices.


Selling tickets in packages is nothing new. Selling them in a subscription-based model is.

“Think of it like Netflix,” said Junior Gaspard, Experience. “The customer signs up for a monthly fee, say $19.99, and for that fee they get to go to as many events as they want.”

Gaspard said that the key to this approach is “separating the barcode from the ticket buyer,” which means the fan doesn’t know what seat they will eventually get until they show up at an event.

“This provides the fan with a different experience every time they come to an event,” explained Gaspard. “One time they will sit up close, two rows from the action and another time they will be up in the bleachers.”

Gaspard also said not showing the fan what seat they will get assures they show up at the event. “They do not know the seat till they get to the venue and scan in.”

The novel approach is being deployed not just for one team and one venue. “We’ve got cities where fans can now subscribe, and for their monthly fee, they can go to a football game in one venue one week and a soccer match at another venue the next.”

“Why sell a single ticket when you can sell a package of tickets?” he asked.


Selling a ticket is, of course, just the start of a fan’s journey, and keeping the fan engaged before, during and after the event was heavily discussed.

“Social media is a key component of keeping the fans involved every step of the way,” said Greg Driscoll, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. “You need a media mosaic approach.”

Driscoll rolled off a series of ways to employ social media, such as ‘tweet of the night,’ having fans ask questions of the athletes and playing the responses on YouTube, Instagram contests, photo booths, Snapchat submission contests and encouraging fans to use Facebook Live while at the event.

“Keeping the fan engaged is a lot more now than just a post-game survey,” said Ryan Pensy, Sportslabs. “Today we have a long list of ways to keep your customers coming back. Use them.”

  • by Brad Weissberg
  • Published: February 15, 2017