Just days after renewing its contract with Ticketmaster, the National Football League has announced a new partnership with StubHub as the NFL’s first authorized resale marketplace, directly integrating the secondary giant into a new open-architecture digital ticketing system.
Starting next season, StubHub users will be able to easily buy and sell tickets for all 32 NFL teams on the eBay-owned platform, tapping into Ticketmaster’s API to transfer digital tickets, manage inventory and create a more seamless customer experience. While it’s not the first time the two rivals have worked together – Ticketmaster and StubHub have a similar Major League Baseball integration – the agreement brings a shift to the competitive landscape that started in 2008 when the NFL and Ticketmaster entered into an exclusive partnership to lock up the secondary market for Ticketmaster’s TicketExchange.
The $200 million deal – renewed for another five years in 2012 – helped Ticketmaster quickly grow its market share of secondary tickets but never led to full exclusivity; StubHub continued to sell NFL ticketing inventory and had more flexibility on pricing, often listing tickets below face value for slow-selling games. Last week, Ticketmaster announced it had renewed its 10-year-old agreement with the NFL and would launch a next-generation ticketing system that would see the two organizations move away from paper tickets and bar codes. Replacing them would be digital tickets that sat on a user’s phone inside the Ticketmaster app, or inside a RFID-enabled card readable through Ticketmaster’s venue software Presence. As part of the agreement, Ticketmaster would enable its open API to allow the sale and validation of tickets on third-party marketplaces. The first to be announced was StubHub.
“As the league was evaluating how they were going to go to ticketing 2.0 for their fan, they looked at their core primary partner Ticketmaster and said, ‘What more do we need to do to gauge a broader marketplace?’” explained Perkins Miller, VP and general manager of North America for StubHub, “which is by far the largest marketplace in the NFL.”
Moving away from print-at-home tickets and PDFs will allow Ticketmaster to cut down on fraud and collect more data on its customers. It also gives Ticketmaster a tighter grip on its place as the choke point in the ticket supply line with greater controls on how tickets are resold. By agreeing to work with StubHub, Ticketmaster gains access to consumer data once held tightly by StubHub, while the NFL earns a new revenue stream in the form of fees generated by the company.
“StubHub wins because they will now able to gain access to more tickets for its marketplace,” said Patrick Ryan of ticket pricing and distribution company Eventellect. “Ticketmaster and StubHub have made significant investments servicing and marketing to fans and this feels like a logical way for them to each leverage their strengths in this era when fans don’t really distinguish between primary and secondary markets.”
Since the 2008 agreement that saw Ticketmaster lock up large portions of NFL resale market share, ticket volume has more than tripled, Ryan explained. “This wasn’t as significant a revenue stream 10 years ago as it was rare for an NFL game to have more than 3,000 tickets transacting on resale channels. Now, it is rare for there to be fewer than 10,000 tickets transacting for an average NFL game on the secondary market.”
The StubHub deal does not include Super Bowl tickets or tickets for concerts held at NFL stadiums. StubHub has integrations with 90 different sports teams and properties, adding a layer of protection for fans that tickets sold on the platform are legitimate and easy to transfer.
“If you look at what works for the fan today, they want a mobile ticket,” Miller said. “And what this does for the league is it puts it on the path of all 32 teams to be mobile-enabled in the very near future. It means that you’ll be able to come to StubHub and every NFL ticket that you have will be a mobile ticket.”