Sounders FC replaces Ticketmaster with SeatGeek’s tech-fueled ticketing platform – GeekWire

SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza speaks at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit 2017. (GeekWire photo / Kevin Lisota)

Goodbye, Ticketmaster. Hello, SeatGeek.

The Seattle Sounders on Wednesday announced a new deal with SeatGeek, a New York-based startup that offers a unique “open ticketing platform” and a focus on mobile apps.

SeatGeek will become the official ticketing partner of the Sounders starting in 2018. It marks the end of a nine-year partnership with industry incumbent Ticketmaster.

Founded in 2009 and equipped with $160 million in investment, SeatGeek has differentiated itself from other ticketing platforms with SeatGeek Open, which lets teams, artists, and others sell tickets across the internet and directly within other apps and websites.

It’s different than Ticketmaster, which uses a closed system that restricts how and where people buy and transfer tickets.

There are a number of big changes that will impact fans. SeatGeek prides itself on making it easy for fans to resell their tickets.

In addition, the Sounders — or anyone — will be able to sell tickets directly within a third-party app. That means Uber or Airbnb could include Sounders tickets as part of a deal, or the team itself could sell tickets directly within your Facebook News Feed.

Currently on the Sounders ticket website, it reads: “… if you are looking to buy or sell tickets to sold out matches don’t forget to check out Ticket Exchange, the only Sounders FC approved place for fans to resell their tickets.”

That will change next year.

Sounders FC COO Bart Wiley told GeekWire that improving the fan experience was the primary reason for why the club went with SeatGeek.

“We felt like SeatGeek gave us chance to be both innovative and creative when it comes to how fans interact with their ticketing platform,” he said.

Wiley said the Sounders are appreciative of Ticketmaster for partnering with the club for nearly a decade. But he noted that SeatGeek “opens doors that potentially we weren’t able to open before.”

Bart Wiley.

“It allows us to be really creative and flexible, and allows us to daydream together about ways to make the fan experience with their ticket as easy, seamless, and efficient as possible,” Wiley said.

Wiley said SeatGeek’s mobile experience is “seamless, easy to navigate, and efficient.”

SeatGeek started as a secondary market ticket aggregator but has since turned its focus on the primary market. The company became the official ticketing partner of the MLS last year and employs more than 250 people across nine offices worldwide.

Other MLS clubs like Sporting KC; New York; Portland; and Minnesota also plan to use SeatGeek as their official ticketing platform.

Adding the Sounders to its customer list is a big deal for SeatGeek; the club consistently leads the MLS in attendance and boasts one of the more robust fanbases in all of North American professional sports. The club has also been open to testing new technology and is based in one of the world’s technology hubs.

“We’re thrilled to be working with one of the most exciting teams in all of professional sports,” SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza said in a statement. “We’re confident the SeatGeek platform will give Seattle supporters easy access to matches and help the club reach an even wider audience. It’s going to enhance an already top-notch fan experience.”

Other leagues are also thinking about moving to an open ticketing system; the NFL is “likely” to end its exclusive partnership with Ticketmaster next year, the New York Business Journal reported.

SeatGeek co-founders, Russ D’Souza, Jack Groetzinger, and Eric Waller, Photo via SeatGeek.

D’Souza, who co-founded SeatGeek with Jack Groetzinger and Eric Waller, spoke about the company’s technology and strategy at our GeekWire Sports Tech Summit in June.

“We really, really want developers to come and integrate with us and to extend our system in all these different ways,” D’Souza said on stage at the GeekWire Sports Tech Summit. “A team would be able to, rather than just buying the SeatGeek platform, they are instead getting the SeatGeek back-end system and also all these other third parties that do what they do better than we ever could. We’re never going to build the next Salesforce — why would we even try to? Instead, we hook into these guys and let a team leverage and use the technology.”

D’Souza noted how an API that allows the re-issuance of tickets also helps prevent fraudulent tickets.

“When verification is an important marketing leg of a primary ticketing company’s marketing message, they are actually opposed to making it more broadly distributed,” he explained. “To put it succinctly, they want fraud. They want people to have those bad experiences because it helps their larger marketing message of, ‘go buy from one verified ticketing site.’

“We think that’s silly,” he continued. “We think that if you create friction for consumers at all, then you’re just hurting the rights holder and you’re making it more difficult and more of a challenge for a fan who wants to attend an event. It’s another thing in the back of their mind that’s keeping them out because they aren’t sure if it’s a verified ticket or not. If we do our job right, in 10 years, the concept of verified tickets doesn’t exist because a ticket is a ticket, and everyone will get it, and they’ll know they can get in.”

Here’s more insight into SeatGeek’s philosophy, via D’Souza:

“If I owned a warehouse which was creating and manufacturing widgets, and I wanted some system that would manage that inventory, I would not expect that system to tell me that it would manage inventory but also have to be the only place that you can sell your widgets. I would want to take my widgets and put them on Amazon; on Etsy; on as many places as possible, because more distribution is more sales.

But our industry has created this weird system where the back-end management of the inventory is inextricably linked to the place that you go buy tickets. So you have the team or the venue who chooses the ticketing system, and they only have one place that they can sell those tickets. Nevermind the fact that there are all these other resale marketplaces who are marketing to consumers, focusing on brand, focusing on how to drive incremental purchases. A rights holder is prohibited because of their restrictive ticketing deal from putting their inventory there at all. That’s clearly the thing that when you talk to teams and you talk to leagues, they’re just like, ‘I can’t believe that, I thought that would be impossible, why is that the case?’ And we just point to other industries where this happens on a completely regular basis.”

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