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Ticketmaster Plus system bites into resale market

This screen shot of a Ticketmaster website shows a seating chart for the Dolphins-Falcons Sept. 22 football game, displaying resale tickets and unsold tickets.
Published Sep. 6, 2013

LOS ANGELES — Fans of popular artists or sports teams are painfully aware of how difficult it is to find good seats to live events at affordable prices. With a new ticket resale system, Ticketmaster is trying to show you what seats are available in one place — both unsold ones and those up for resale — so you can price-shop more easily.

The nation's largest ticket-seller quietly began rolling out its system, called Ticketmaster Plus, for certain shows including a Black Sabbath concert in Massachusetts in August. More than two dozen professional sports teams have signed up, including many in the NFL. With the pro football season starting in earnest Sunday, millions of football fans could start using the system soon. So far, about 300 events have used Ticketmaster Plus, which the company says is still in test mode.

Using a computer, ticket buyers can see where each available seat is in a stadium, how much it's selling for and whether it's a marked-up resale seat or one that hasn't been sold yet.

Before, you had to check for resales and unsold tickets separately. By seeing them together, you can tell before paying the resale price whether you can get an unsold ticket cheaper just a row or a few seats away. For an upcoming Miami Dolphins' home game against the Atlanta Falcons, for instance, you can see that a single resale seat in Section 122 priced at $146.05 is right beside an unsold seat selling for $85.

"This now allows fans to have one-stop shopping," said Jim Rushton, the Dolphins' chief revenue officer.

Ticket holders who are looking to sell because they can't make an event can do so from a mobile phone or computer. All transfers are electronic, so there's no need to send physical tickets in the mail.

Ticketmaster, a division of Live Nation Entertainment, is hoping its new system will help it take a larger share of the resale ticket market, which is estimated to be worth more than $4 billion in annual revenue in North America. The figure includes the resale ticket price and associated fees, which are estimated at about $1 billion a year.

Ticket sellers are usually brokers who buy tickets hoping to sell them for profit, as well as sports fans who are season-ticket holders but can't make every game. Individuals whose plans change are also in the market to flip their tickets.

By offering an improved resale system, Ticketmaster can collect a fee on every resale. The fee amounts to about 20 percent — about half from the buyer and half from the seller. Rushton says the team will also share in those fees, unlike for third-party reseller sites such as StubHub, where the team makes nothing.

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