Ticketing Giants Take Scalping Battle Before Lawmakers
By Phil Williams
Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Consumers are getting ripped off when they try to buy tickets to concerts and sporting events.
Almost everyone agreed on that point Tuesday as the battle over ticket scalping went before a legislative committee, but there was no agreement on what to do about it.
Lawmakers also agreed that the issue is shaping up to be a classic legislative battle between powerful forces looking to get their way, with both sides claiming to represent the fans.
"Fans want fair access to face value tickets," one speaker declared.
"Seats to that show are $15, they are selling them for $92," another related.
"That's why I'm here today, because of the fans," a third insisted.
While both sides claimed they were there for the same reason, there was also a lot of big money behind the arguments.
On one side, an industry coalition put together by lobbyists for Ticketmaster.
On the other, an opposition financed in part by the major ticket resale sites, like StubHub and Ticket Network.
Arena and theatre operators complained about misleading websites operated by scalpers where fans are duped into thinking they're buying from official sites.
"They land on our doorstep ready to see a show, and they don't have the access that they thought they had," said Kathleen O'Brien of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
"They don't have the tickets that they thought they had and, in some cases, they don't have tickets."
Lawmakers also heard from the manager for country star Eric Church -- and what we discovered about how illegal software bots gobbled up tickets before fans had a chance to buy them.
"Real fans are getting beat to the punch when tickets go on sale," Logan told NewsChannel 5 Investigates recently. "They are there trying to buy tickets at the price we set and they are getting beat out."
But critics also cited our investigation showing Ticketmaster itself has major business interests with the same ticket resellers and scalpers that it claims to want to regulate.
"The bill's proponents are hoping that this power play goes unnoticed," said Jon Potter, head of the StubHub-funded Fan Freedom Project.
Committee chairman, Sen. Jack Johnson, told us that he thinks "the Ticketmaster, artist and venue folks do have some legitimate concerns."
But the Franklin Republican said that he is also concerned that Ticketmaster's efforts to define a ticket as a "license" could be part of an effort to shut out its competitors.
"If it is a license, then Ticketmaster could say you have to resell that ticket through us, correct?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
"That's right," Johnson answered.
"So that would give them control over all the resale in the country?"
Johnson added, "I don't think we are prepared to go that far in the state of Tennessee because in fact that does create a monopoly-type situation."
In the end, the chairman told both sides that they needed to get together and hammer out an agreement over the things they agree about -- outlawing fraudulent sites, for example.
That's something his office intends to work on before lawmakers return to session in January.
Neither side is pushing legislation to outlaw scalping or to limit how much scalpers can jack up the price on consumers.