This week on ABC Grandstand, Sports Geek took a look at how the ticketing industry is changing, focusing on Louis CK taking his comedy directly to his fans.


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In case your Twitter and Facebook friends haven’t already told you about this, Louis CK is selling tickets for an entire tour on his website at the flat rate of $45 per seat, regardless of which seat, or which city, a particular ticket is for. That price includes all taxes, fees, and so on.

We're also seeing dynamic pricing providing big wins in the sports, with the MLB's San Francisco Giants leading the way.

Until next week

Catch it live on Saturday mornings (at 7:40am) when Sean Callanan discuss sports digital with Francis Leach on ABC Grandstand. Tune into ABC Grandstand Breakfast Friday through Monday on ABC Grandstand digital radio.

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Podcast transcription

FRANCIS: Front seat here on a Saturday morning with our digital sports guru, Sean Callanan each week joins us about sport in the digital space. How are you Sean?

SEAN: I’m good thanks Francis, yourself?

FRANCIS: Not too bad. Rather interesting topic to bring to the table today and that’s ticketing and how maybe an example from the entertainment industry could revolutionise the way ticketing is done in the world of sport.

SEAN: Yeah well ticketing’s sort of a bit of slow burn from a digital space. With obviously a lot of old or established players is probably a better way of putting it still trying to grapple with the digital technology and everything, and Lewis CK who is – – –

FRANCIS: Very funny man.

SEAN: – – – very funny man, a comedian in the States and if you actually follow his Twitter account you know it’s – it’s not suitable for work is probably one way of putting it. He’s quite happy – – –

FRANCIS: Small eyes.

SEAN: – – – yeah, yeah exactly. And actually there was actually a good article there where it said you know Lewis CK insults his fans, and you know too bad Brock McLean didn’t get the same – same memo, but pretty much fans just tweeting say hey insult me please. And he replies back insults them in you know the worst possible fashion- – –

FRANCIS: Bit like Monty Python, I’m here for an argument; I’m here for an insult.

SEAN: — – -pretty much but you know he’s engaged with his fans, he’s starting to understand the digital space and he’s also starting to understand from a you know comedian’s point of view how he can control his – his work product and control his image you know online. He’s not – he’s not sort of selling out to comedy channels and those kind of things. So he’s done a few innovative things, but this week he announced a concert tour of the United States, and normally that would mean oh here’s the dates, you know here’s where you can buy all the tickets and you know in the States it’s a very different ticketing market where they’ve got ticket brokers, we would call them scalpers.

FRANCIS: Stubb Hub.

SEAN: Yeah Stubb Hub but they’ve also got people that you know they’ll release the tickets, the ticket brokers will snap up the lot of them and then they’ll start re-selling them with a little bit of upgraded price and everything like that. So rather than selling them through traditional means he’s sold them all for a flat rate of $45 from his website.

FRANCIS: Directly?

SEAN: Directly to the fans.

FRANCIS: That’s interesting because previously there’d been this sort of vertical integration of venues and TicketMaster type organisations so that the ticketing organisation owned the venue. So if you wanted to play at Madison Square Garden you had to go through say Clear Channel whatever it is.

SEAN: Yeah.

FRANCIS: You couldn’t do that, you couldn’t sell your own tickets because the owner of the venue owns the ticket distribution.

SEAN: And so yeah – so yeah – so I don’t know exactly how he’s gone and hired the venues or whether he’s going to be playing at Scout Halls across America, but yeah he’s effectively said look I’m going to – I’m going to sell all the tickets. So the thing is that he – you know he gets the relationship with the fans, he’s get the data which is again a big play in everything digital marketing, he gets to offer the fans a set prices, because he takes out all those ticketing and booking fees and – and the mark ups that the ticket brokers put up on the tickets. So he did the same thing with a video content where he sold it for $5, you know said here you go guys I’m testing this thing out, here’s a video – he’s a whole video of one of my shows, he paid for it all, charged it out for $5 and he made an absolute bucket load of money selling it for $5 because the fans went yeah I want that it’s only $5, there’s no you know 30% cut to iTunes, there was no distributor fee to DVD players, there was no – so he’s really changing up the market and so it’s a matter of you know will teams be able to extract themselves from these you know ticketing deals that they’ve currently – again they’re tied to venues so if you know if you go to MCG with one vendor, if you go to Etihad you’re with another vendor, if you go to other stadiums, they are, they’re all aligned with ticketing deals. So as these ticketing deals expire I think that’s where both venues will have the flexibility and potentially the clubs will also have the flexibility. So some of the things that we’re seeing from a ticketing point of view, one is dynamic pricing, so the ability for teams to dynamically price if not the whole stadium, but sections of the stadium to make it more appealing.

FRANCIS: One other way that could be used and I know as an Arsenal member and Arsenal fan that if you are an Arsenal member you can – I’m not a reserved seat holder, I’m an Arsenal member that would like to be but I can’t be because they’re very tightly held. You can put them up via the Arsenal website to other Arsenal members who are on the waiting list to actually – so if you’re not going to the full on game because you’re going to be somewhere else, you can actually sort of sublet it for a week.

SEAN: Yeah so that’s effectively re-ticketing it.

FRANCIS: Re-ticketing, but officially re-ticketed through the club to facilitate other club members who are genuine fans getting access to those seats.

SEAN: So that’s a – that’s a big one like the San Francisco Giants do that as well. They had a bit of a – had a decision to make from a season ticket point of view, now a lot of the teams like in the AFL and NRL are offering partial game packages. Because you know the MLB season is – is how long?

FRANCIS: 162 games.

SEAN: 162 games so that’s 81 games to turn up to, so you know in this time poor world it’s very
hard to say I’m going to turn up to 81 games.

FRANCIS: It would be nice.

SEAN: It would be nice but – but the thing is you know – – –

FRANCIS: You’d probably need to get a life somewhere in there.

SEAN: – – -when you do get to that renewal form and you go oh hang on I only went to 60 or I went 40 games you would go oh is it really worth it, you know from a point of view. And so the San Francisco Giants rather than saying we’re going to offer partial plans, which may have eaten into their season ticket base, and people would have downgraded most likely, they said no we’re going to stick it – we’re not going to offer any season partial plans, but we’re going to offer this re-ticketing option. So they have the same thing where you can say oh Francis do you want to go to the game? Hang on I’ll just open up my phone and effectively email you the ticket, the Giants will get a clip of you know $2 to transfer the ticket or something like that, you know if you want to give me $20 for the ticket you can, or I might be a good guy and just give it away and be happy that my ticket’s been used. You know from then, you know from a you’ve got a full stadium, you’ve got fans that are happy to renew, so I think re-ticketing is probably more likely to be coming up, and there are a few teams doing it now. I know West Coast Eagles do it with you know a full stadium with a – with a waiting list.

FRANCIS: Do they have a sort of Stubb Hub arrangement where you can repurchase tickets?

SEAN: Yeah I think – I think Essendon do the same thing with their reserve seat ticket holders at Etihad. So I think that’s one, you know, because you know everyone gets their AFL season tickets, it’s not transferrable, but you know can hand it to your mate and they can scan themselves in, but then you’ve got the hassle of got to get my card back, I’ve got to catch him before next week to go like you know today my brother’s not coming to the game, so if someone wanted to come they could use his ticket, but his ticket’s all the way in Ballarat.

FRANCIS: It’s a very, very old transaction now isn’t it?

SEAN: So yeah so I think you know I think more likely we’re going to moving towards that e-ticket type of mentality, whether it’s – you know whether it’s smartphone technology where we just have a phone.

FRANCIS: You can do that at the movies now can’t you? You can go to one of the big cinemaplexes and just scan a barcode on your phone.

SEAN: Scan your phone, yeah. And the thing is you know the resolution of the iPhone, Androids are you know quite easy to scan, you know and I’ve tried it a few times, taken a picture of my card to see if will scan and it will, you know, as long as it doesn’t you know reflect too much. But I think that’s the – that’s sort of a place to go, because barcodes are only scan once, it’s not like you can have multiple people turning up.

FRANCIS: The bottom line, do you think in the end it will reduce the cost of tickets to sports events if we follow this model?

SEAN: I think it will just – – –

FRANCIS: Will it cut out the scalper?

SEAN: I think it will, I think it will cut out the scalper in a sense, if it makes it easier for the – easier for the both the ticket buyer and the vendor to be able to sell the ticket directly. So I think that you know some of the advances will be being able to give more flexibility to the ticket holder, you know rather than saying I’ve got a season ticket, I can say I’ve got an 18 games ticket that I can flick and send on. Whether I have to log in, whether I can do it with an iPhone or whatever, just the flexibility and then if you’ve got this dynamic ticket pricing you know potentially you can say well it’s a 4 o’clock game on a Sunday, it’s a tough game to get people to go to, but well what if you can sit in a you know premium seat for slightly discounted.

FRANCIS: Market price. Got a podium for us this week?

SEAN: Well it’s really on the – on the technology. I think dynamic pricing is one, I think this re-ticketing and then I think something around fan loyalty I think is the next thing to say hey you’ve gone to 15 games, we want to be able to offer you something specifically or you know get further up in the queue when the grand final tickets come on sale, I think that’s something that’s also I guess going to come down the pipeline from a – from a ticketing point of view, lots of things happening.

FRANCIS: As we start to develop the data we get more of that information about what people do. Sean thanks for coming in again.

SEAN: No worries.

FRANCIS: Remind people where they can find you in the digital space.

SEAN: is where they can find all the things that we’re doing.