News November 26, 2019

Live biz expresses concern as Viagogo buys rival StubHub

Live biz expresses concern as Viagogo buys rival StubHub
Viagogo founder and CEO Eric Baker

Live industry executives in Australia and the UK have expressed concern over news that Geneva-based ticket reseller Viagogo has bought out its main rival, StubHub for US$4.05 billion cash.

“Buyers will have a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers,” Viagogo founder and CEO Eric Baker said of the purchase.

“Bringing these two companies together creates a win-win for fans – more choice and better pricing.

“It has long been my wish to unite the two companies. I am so proud of how StubHub has grown over the years and excited about the possibilities for our shared future.”

But some live biz watchdogs and activists don’t agree.

Coincidentally, StubHub, which has its headquarters in San Francisco, was also co-founded by Baker. He left before eBay bought it for $310 million in 2007.

The sale is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2020, subject to regulatory approval and closing conditions

Live Performance Australia executive director Evelyn Richardson told TMN, “From the industry’s point of vew, our concern is, as it’s always been, that they comply with Australian consumer law and that they be transparent in all their pricing and operational dealings.”

In Australia, following an inquiry by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, the Federal court found in April 2019 that Viagogo had breached Australian Consumer Law s by making false or misleading representations and engaged in conduct liable to mislead the public.

Penalties and orders are still to be instituted, however Google then banned Viagogo from advertising in July.

A live music executive, speaking to TMN on condition of anonymity, commented, “We’ve been expecting something like this since Google banned Viagogo from advertising, and their business reportedly went down by 80%.

“Both Viagogo and StubHub resell for over face value, and the less tech-savvy Australian fan will always be vulnerable through wanting desperately to see a show.”

The buy-out will expand both companies’ footprints to 70 countries.

StubHub’s Australian website lists tix for Australian visits by Iron Maiden, Elton John and Tool as well as sporting and comedy events.

Overseas, the Face-value European Alliance for Ticketing (FEAT) the pan-European group formed to fight ticket scalping, doubted the buy-out would be good for consumers.

Its campaign lead, Katie O’Leary, said, “Further consolidation in the secondary ticketing market would most likely restrict competition, and further negatively impact fans.”

“It’s alarming to think of Viagogo potentially gaining an even greater stronghold in the secondary ticketing market given it’s been the subject of various legal actions across Europe and banned from advertising on Google globally.”

Anti-touting scalping group FanFair Alliance has already begun writing to UK politicians and regulators urging them not to green-light the sale, which it describes as “Feels like a desperate move from both parties.”

It added, “News of this acquisition should be a major concern for both audiences and music businesses – especially if Viagogo, a company that recently had a court order hanging over its head and is still subject of a CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) investigation, use this process as an attempt to detoxify its brand.”

Music Managers Forum CEO Annabella Coldrick noted that the music industry had taken steps to reform the UK’s secondary ticketing market “and put a stop to the rip off anti-fan practices of sites like Viagogo.

“For that reason, today’s announcement is a huge concern. The consolidation of the biggest remaining platforms for ticket touts could put a brake on progress and cause untold harm for audiences and artists alike.”

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