Oak View Group Acquires Pollstar
Expanding its Roster of Sports and Entertainment Media Properties and Conferences
- by Linda Deckard
- Published: July 12, 2017
Oak View Group's Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke introduce Gary Smith, Pollstar, on stage at VenuesNow. (VT Photo)
REPORTING FROM BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF.— The first order of business at VenuesNow here July 12-14 was announcement of the acquisition of Pollstar by Oak View Group. OVG Co-Founders Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke made the announcement. "This is an added opportunity to create a better platform and more dynamic conversation in the touring business," Leiweke said of the latest acquisition.
Leiweke said there are many trade shows that are great resources, but they are not dealing with the tough issues, the goal of VenuesNow, which has 600 people registered this first, invitation-only year, he said. Oak View Group started its media rollup with the purchase of Venues Today, followed by an investment in Sport Techie. Pollstar is the newest in the family and Lieweke promised there will be more.
Through the acquisition, OVG has taken ownership and operational control of Pollstar’s weekly print publication, Pollstar.com, Pollstar Pro and the Pollstar Live conference. Pollstar’s President and Editor-in-Chief Gary Bongiovanni and CEO Gary Smith will continue their leadership positions within the company and play key roles in its day-to-day operations. Pollstar maintains offices in Fresno, Calif., and London.
The acquisition is touted by all parties as a chance to expand the global reach and breadth of data of Pollstar’s information services. Smith thanked Azoff and Leiweke for their belief in Pollstar, adding "timing is everyting. This is the right company to partner with at the right time." The deal, he said, closed June 30. Next up in the conference world for OVG is Pollstar Live at the Intercontinental Hotel in Los Angeles in February.
In a candid moment, Smith expressed his amazement at what had happened with VenuesNow in a mere six weeks. Pollstar Live is six months out and Pollstar has been producing the event for 25 years. Smith said he didn't know, given new ownership, how they would handle the growth this year.
"You can handle the growth," Leiweke responded.
In an earlier interview with Venues Today, Bongiovanni, who founded Pollstar 35 years ago, noted his satisfaction that Azoff and Leiweke came to them and appreciate what they do. Pollstar will continue business as usual, but now has the backing of a major player in the industry and opportunities to expand beyond what a small company could do, he said.
Smith, who joined Pollstar in the beginning and was a major stockholder, concurred that Pollstar is now in a “’good place” and “on a roll right now.” The timing of sale and the clout OVG has takes Pollstar to the next level. “I see any number of opportunities ahead and we can almost turn it on a dime,” Smith said. His experience during the sale process gave him considerable confidence in the future as an OVG property, he added.
Bongiovanni founded Pollstar as an information service, not as a publication, and the data on concert tours and industry contacts is still key to the media company’s core values. “Our first issues were computer printouts from our database, providing information for the concert industry,” Bongiovanni recalled. The industry did not have much box office information at the time, he said. Bongiovanni, with his background in college booking and even the classic “mailroom at William Morris” beginnings, took a realistic look at the marketplace and saw a need.
“Pollstar has represented the voice of record for the live music and ticketing industries for over three decades and bringing them into the OVG family is a true honor for all of us,” said Leiweke. “Working hand-in-hand with Pollstar’s leadership team we’ll look to greatly optimize the reach of its print, digital and conference assets.”
“Pollstar has served our industry as a trusted and invaluable resource during an era where music and ticketing have evolved dramatically,” added Azoff. “Their insights and analysis are fundamental to the success of our business, and we’re looking forward to growing the brand’s influence and impact for years to come.”
"Pollstar concert data is the gold standard for the live entertainment industry and the Pollstar Live! conference is the epicenter of the concert business each winter,” said Ray Waddell, president, Conferences & Publications, Oak View Group. “I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work with Gary Smith, Gary Bongiovanni, and the entire Pollstar team.”
Pollstar covers the worldwide concert industry, with offices in the U.S. and London, producing a weekly print magazine for professionals and publishing that information daily to the web at PollstarPro.com.
Pollstar.com was among the first music sites on the Internet when it debuted in 1994 offering live music fans free access to the same high quality concert tour information used daily by live event professionals. The company is currently in the process of merging both websites into the all new state-of-the-art Pollstar.com website.
“We’re an information company,” Bongiovanni said. “People pay us for information. We never had record company advertising, so when the record business stopped thriving, it didn’t affect us.”
The philosophy behind publishing the resource guides was timeliness. From the beginning, Bongiovanni considered an annual directory of managers and booking agents useless, because the contacts and content change radically and frequently, so they began publishing directories more frequently, all the while enhancing the core business, information for agents and promoters.
In 2000, they introduced the Pollstar Pro website and kept modifying and building that platform. The new Pollstar.com went live in December and, eventually, will fully incorporate Pollstar Pro.
“In the future, I see continued expansion on the breadth and amount of data on a worldwide basis,” Bongiovanni said.
Pollstar joins a number of noteworthy investments by OVG in media companies, including Venues Today, VenuesNow and SportTechie. In addition to growing the reach of each of their media assets, OVG will leverage its sponsorship division and Arena Alliance to generate advertising sales efficiencies across each publication and conference.
- by Linda Deckard
- Published: July 12, 2017