Azoff: Ticketmaster "Highly Confident" Merger Will be Approved

Posted by: Ron Grover on October 18, 2009


Ticketmaster Entertainment (TKTM) “remains highly confident that” its planned merger with rival ticketing agency Live Nation (LYV) “will happen,” says Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff despite published reports that U.S. antitrust regulators have concerns over the combination. Azoff made his comments during an Oct. 17th entertainment symposium of Los Angeles lawyers at USC, but then outlined some of the very anti-competitive concerns that might be fueling Washington’s concerns.

Azoff, who initially derided the press reports as “either wishful thinking or idle speculation,” went to great lengths during his 30-minute question answer presentation to present Ticketmaster’s case that scalping should be declared illegal so that his company and “rights holders” (i.e. sports teams and rock stars) could control the flow of tickets and prices that consumers pay to get them. “It’s up to those rights owners to decide what they want to do with those tickets.”

Azoff says he has been meeting in Washington with various congressional members to press federal legislation to put curbs on scalping. (The majority of states have laws that allow scalping, and several have removed anti-scaling provisions in recent years,) “I tell them that they wouldn’t allow someone on the street to scalp a gallon of gasoline when there’s an oil crisis” says Azoff. “Why would they allow someone to stand on a street corner and scalp a ticket when it’s in high demand, too?”

During his talk, Azoff did not address reports that his company and Live Nation may be pondering making concessions, including selling off some ticketing sites, in order to curry favor with regulators who worry that the combined company would control too many venues and drive out competitors. “We would never have undertaken this merger if we thought it wasn’t legal,” he said.

Instead, Azoff said he rarely reads newspaper accounts of the deal, although he had seen some recently and dismissed the leaked accounts. “I know that the Justice Dept hasn’t been the source of any of these leaks,” he said, hinting that interested parties were trying to squash the merger. “Despite what (rival concert promoter) AEG might think, this is not a popularity contest,” Azoff added.

Azoff did offer one potentially pro-consumer initiative. Early next year, said Azoff, it plans to introduce “dynamic pricing” of tickets it sells. Under dynamic pricing, a virtual open market would be established for tickets, with the most popular tickets commanding the highest prices based on the numbers of folks wanting them. Alternatively, less attractive tickets would command lower prices. According to Azoff, about 40% of concert ticket seats go unsold these days because they often are too high priced. With dynamic pricing, “we’d have lower priced tickets, more tickets sold and more opportunities for venues to sell popcorn and beer,” the Ticketmaster CEO says.

Reader Comments

Dan Michaels

October 19, 2009 10:32 AM

Well gas is a necessity, ticket is a luxury.

Brian

October 19, 2009 6:19 PM

So he is saying that they are going to raise prices and start a monopoly on selling and reselling tickets ("scalping should be declared illegal")and that is good for the consumer?

What would people say if it was decided you could only buy from Ford and Ford said you were never allowed to sell your car again, you could only buy from them. If you wanted to sell your Ford for half of what you paid that would be illegal.

What if we just broke up Live Nation, Ticketmaster and Front Line.

How were promoters able to make a profit in the past when they knew their local market and today one giant promoter can't make a profit at all?

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