Leadership / 05.04.18
Amazon Tickets Pulled Back From the Market. Will It Be Back?
"You come at the king, you best not miss." That was one of the more memorable lines delivered by breakout character Omar Little, the swaggering, stick-up man played by Michael Kenneth Williams in HBO's late, great "The Wire." Omar's street wisdom can be applied to big business. How many competitors have tried to come at and take on such industry royals as McDonald's, Disney, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart? How many have missed?
In the ticketing biz, Amazon took its best shot at Ticketmaster with Amazon Tickets, a U.K.-based operation that first started selling tickets in 2015 before fully launching its ticket platform in November 2016. Things looked promising in the early going: Amazon even publicly stated that it would disrupt "the entire live entertainment experience," recalls the Complete Music Update news service. Amazon had the resources, the online infrastructure and a massive existing customer base of music fans. It also partnered with AEG to launch Prime Live Events, which garnered a number of successful events. Among them were shows from Blondie and shows at Hyde Park and Royal Albert Hall in the UK. Industry watchers were seriously asking, "Could Amazon be the one new entrant into the hyper-competitive ticketing business that could actually gain some traction?"
But Amazon soon learned what far smaller ticketing start-ups had discovered: Taking on the large players in this market is hard, no matter how customer-friendly your platform is. Amazon officially made the decision to permanently shutter Amazon Tickets in February of this year. Getting access to tickets for the big shows proved to be an especially big problem. After all, the biggest concert promoter of them all — Live Nation ― owns Ticketmaster and its related ticketing businesses.
A year prior, the online retail giant had tried to take its ticketing ambitions stateside. It conceded that Ticketmaster was the dominant force for ticketing in America and tried to do a deal with Live Nation. Live Nation, though, was not shy in using the power of its throne. The company told Amazon it did not need help moving tickets for the likes of Beyonce, U2 or Bruno Mars. Instead, it only wanted help selling tickets to shows for which there was plenty of availability. According to Billboard, there was also a disagreement over data. Amazon couldn't get over its reluctance to share purchasing data and contact information for its approximately 85 million Prime subscribers. A failure to secure a deal resulted in Amazon scrapping its U.S. ambitions.
“Our industry has done a terrific job of preserving the power of data ownership,” said Maureen Andersen, President of INTIX. “Our venues and organizations know that the data is king, and it isn’t surprising that the Amazon ticketing play didn’t quite work out around this topic. Ultimately, regardless of the technology, the sharing and data ownership piece will be the resolution point. Our industry isn’t going to go backward in ownership — he who owns the data controls the experience.”
Amazon Tickets essentially died on both sides of the Atlantic. However, it’s very possible that Amazon used their ticketing foray as a market learning and evaluation opportunity. Although it’s shuttered in both countries, there is a possibility we will see Amazon re-enter the market at a later date with a different offering.
Billboard reports that there is still a chance Amazon may be quietly preparing for a 2019 relaunch with new technology and tie-ins with the voice-activated Amazon Echo speaker and the Firestick TV streaming device. In last year's fourth quarter, the industry publication recalls, Amazon officials met with a number of show producers at its Seattle headquarters and offered details of a new ticketing platform tied into the two aforementioned devices, utilizing its AI-driven personal assistant software Alexa to make searching for event tickets easier. It’s not yet clear how the Firestick may be part of the technology capabilities, but it could potentially be a new offering to intuitively search for and purchase tickets through a TV app.
So if Amazon does enter the ticketing arena, it sounds like its focus might be on utilizing technology to optimize customer experience – something for which Ticketmaster has never garnered accolades, and has lately been under fire due to its new “confusing and stressful” Verified Fan program. This could be the edge Amazon needs, but, of course, only time can tell.
Market experts have various thoughts on Amazon’s potential ticketing reentrance. Macquarie analyst Amy Young told Amplify Media founder and Executive Editor Dave Brooks, "If Amazon wants to come into the market, then they will have to negotiate directly with artists, venues and sports teams."
Whether or not Amazon resurrects its ticketing platform (and how), its first foray into the business certainly offers new food for thought.
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Tags: Ticketmaster , Digital Marketing , Artificial Intelligence