The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) held a listening forum on April 27th, 2022, with the focus being on “Firsthand Effects of Mergers and Acquisitions: Media and Entertainment.” The forum featured FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan and DOJ Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Jonathan Kanter along with SeatGeek’s Russell D’Souza, National Consumers League’s John Breyault and Sports Fans Coalition’s Brian Hess. It was a very important day with regard to oversight of competition issues in live event ticketing.
Chairwoman Khan opened the event with comments on how mergers have changed “how events are promoted and tickets are sold and resold.” SeatGeek’s D’Souza followed up with the harm that the Live Nation-Ticketmaster merger has caused, saying, “we face a dominant competitor in our industry, Live Nation entertainment.” D’Souza continued, “Our industry provides a cautionary tale about how behavioral remedies, even when well-intentioned and enforced appropriately, cannot solve the problems inherent in an anticompetitive merger.”
NCL’s Breyault continued to echo the same sentiments as the previous speakers and said, “In 2018, the GAO found that on average, purchasers paid an additional 27% of the tickets original value and add on fees. Recent media reports have found out on fees as high as 78% of the ticket starting price.” He continued, “This is after consumers must contend with rampant ticket holdbacks that artificially limit supply, scalpers employing illegal ticket buying bot software, and look-alike white label resale sites masquerading as the box office.”
Sports Fan Coalition’s Hess started by calling on the FTC “to do more to protect consumers from the monopolistic practices of companies like Ticketmaster.” He continued, “As the industry is dominant in primary and secondary, Ticketmaster’s restrictive ticketing policies artificially depressed folks' supply, leading to higher-than-normal prices on both the primary and secondary markets.” Hess finished by mentioning holdbacks and said, “Less than half of the tickets on average for a live event are ever made available to the public.”
AAG Kanter finished the event with a reference to the discussion about the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger by agreeing “about the harm from behavioral remedies to address otherwise anticompetitive mergers and how difficult it is to truly solve an anticompetitive merger.”
Protect Ticket Rights hopes the DOJ and FTC will step in and take action under the agencies’ existing authority, to stop monopolistic practices that make it increasingly more difficult for fans to shop around and access the tickets they want, and to freely use, give away, or resell their purchased tickets on their own terms. Greater transparency and fewer restrictions are desperately needed in the live event ticketing market.
National polling commissioned by Protect Ticket Rights in late 2021 and released in March 2022 found that: