Posted by: Jon Fine on February 10, 2009
And Bruce, if you haven’t heard, is not happy. Although TicketMaster can take heart that at least Bruce’s angry fans, or politicians seeking to piggyback on their anger haven’t sued—or at least not yet.
The following is a lightly edited transcript of Barry Diller, IAC’s Chairman-CEO and nonexecutive chairman of the proposed merger of Live Nation and TicketMaster, responding to a question on an investor conference call regarding class action lawsuits being readied against TicketMaster and its “secondary” ticketing site, TicketsNow. Said class action suits stem from this particular situation. Real-time transcription is all mine. So are any typos. A pressing deadline elsewhere means I present this without any additional comment, though I hope you add some.)
BARRY DILLER: Class action … they are (sighs audibly) What can I say about them that have no merit, but are just chasing cars down the road?
What really happened there was an actual glitch, a technical glitch in the system that had nothing to do with availability. It had to do with Visa, I think [UPDATE: Visa reps deny this. See the spokesman’s statement at the end of this post.], which couldn’t process data and so it kinda froze the system for a bit. When it froze, what the TicketMaster screen said was it couldn’t process anything. And another screen came up and said, ‘you can go back and try again, you can modify [the order],’ and the other side of the screen said you can go to TicketsNow. Our reseller sister company.
It was confusing, It was not out of TicketMaster saying tickets were not available, and pushing people to a reseller site. That was not Ticketmaster’s intention, et cetera. There is no real controversy. The issue is there is a secondary market, that has existed for a long time. It’s usually been called “scalpers.” That is a reality, and has been for a very very long time. All sorts of practices go on. We tried to to make [the reselling process] transparent and will continue to make it more [transparent, and to make it secure.
TicketMaster is not in the business of denying primary tickets to anyone in order to push them to the secondary marketplace. It will continue to make improvement so there are absolute—there is a ringing clarity between the two. That is the policy of the company. We don’t push people to the secondary market, other than when the house is sold out.
Again, I just think this is such a sexy issue. TicketMaster is never perceived to be on the side of the angels because there are only so many tickets. When they are finished, people get angry. That’s understandable. That’s part of the life of being in that kind of service business. But the noise all around this was wildly overdone and it was of course, the timing unfortunately. That’s what happens in life. A computer glitch gets . . . promoted, let’s say.
We are going to explain it. We haven’t been able to until today. We will explain and explain and explain and make all this clear to all constituencies. We have a situation in New York. I think [New York ] Senator Schumer made statements that were factually untrue. In detail, untrue, which is unfortunate, but hardly unknown.
We are going to keep setting the record straight.
UPDATE: Evidently Diller is referring to this just-posted letter on in that last sentence.
UPDATE: The statement from Visa:
Statement from Joe Carberry, spokesperson, Visa Inc.
"We were surprised by the comments of Ticketmaster CEO Barry Diller regarding their recent ticket issues.
"Ticketmaster's characterization that an earlier technical 'glitch' impacting its online ticket sales was related to Visa's systems is inaccurate. Visa's processing network was fully functional on February 2 with no authorization issues. In fact, VisaNet has run with nearly 100 percent reliability for the past decade.
"VisaNet is the world's largest retail payment network, securely and reliably facilitating the transfer of value and information every minute of every day of the year. We operate four processing centers on three continents that are fully synchronized and operate identical authorization platforms. This enables Visa to reroute transaction volume from one data center to another as needed. Our multiple and redundant systems help ensure that VisaNet can continuously meet the processing demands of all our customers worldwide.
The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.