Ticketmaster, Fandango and competition
This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 21, 2006
So you want really, really want tickets to see your favorite band. $75 a head, but you figure you can pull that together what's $150 for you and your sweetie and the best band on the face of the earth.
You go to Ticketmaster.com or down to the local Ticketmaster outlet. Only instead of $150, what with nonrefundable "service" charges, taxes and other fees, you end walking out closer to $200 lighter than $150.
And if you're steamed, there's not much you can do about it.
Ever since Ticketron went out of business back when hair bands stilled ruled the roost on MTV, Ticketmaster's been the only game in town. Every town.
Even the arrival of the Web in the early 1990s, which eventually made it economically feasible to provide real competition to monopolistic behemoths like Microsoft and the local telephone company, didn't do much to dent Ticketmaster's hold over the live entertainment industry.
It wasn't just concert venues that Ticketmaster held sway over. If you wanted to buy tickets to most major college or professional sports, you also had to deal with Ticketmaster. The same went for larger theatrical performances, Broadway shows, the symphony or opera.
It was Ticketmaster that had the market reach, that had the technology and the infrastructure to sell tickets to a single venue from thousands of purchase points.
It was Ticketmaster (and Ticketron, too, to be honest) that had devised a system whereby one database could be accessed from multiple points with full integrity so the minute a clerk in Temecula sold a seat to the Who Concert at (then) Jack Murphy Stadium, that seat was removed from every other Ticketmaster terminal in the world. This was key to modern live entertainment you don't want to sell a ticket to the same seat at the same event twice; tends to lead to angry customers.
But if the technology not really any different from that used by airlines since the late 1950s to provide a secure point of sales system for selling tickets was key, the near-monopoly that Ticketmaster exercised of the market once Ticketron went out of business wasn't so good for consumers.
Over the past few years, Fandango.com has introduced the above concept to movie theaters. Using Fandango's secure online ordering portal, you can buy tickets to the local movie house before you leave and as Fandango's database interfaces with that of the local theater, you don't have to worry about arriving at the theater and not getting a seat.
Now Fandango has expanded its operation from cinemas to sporting events, concerts and theaters mounting a direct assault on Ticketmaster's chokehold over live entertainment.
I haven't been able to figure out the details of Fandango's new offerings so whether Ticketmaster is merely licensing Fandango to use its proprietary network or whether Fandango is truly competing head to head with Ticketmaster, I don't know. I did notice that Dan Mohler, v.p. of sales for Fandango, was previously a regional sales director for Ticketmaster. Coincidence?
Fandango's interface is in some ways easier to use than Ticketmaster's, and in some ways less useful. To get started, you have to type in your ZIP code then Fandango displays all the different events in your area.
But what if I'm a nut for a certain band, and am willing to travel to see them? What if I want to but tickets for something that's not happening until August?
Those tasks don't seem nearly as easy to accomplish on Fandango's Web site as on Ticketmaster's. You can get to a one-month calendar on Fandango, and you can view concerts by artist, but it takes a couple clicks to accomplish what you can do quickly on Ticketmaster.
And not having any money to buy anything right now, I don't know what kind of service charge Fandango might add on to your purchase.
Still, it's hard to imagine that having someone competing with Ticketmaster could be a badthing. Fandango's service and reputation have been sterling in the movie ticket business it's built up over the past few years if they do as well in live entertainment, customers will grow to love Fandango even more.
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