Leadership / 08.11.21
Tickets.com CEO Talks Flexibility and Optimism Amid COVID-19
Tickets.com President and CEO Joe Choti has no problem acknowledging the trials and tribulations he and his colleagues have faced and continue to face amid the COVID-19 crisis. “These have certainly been extremely challenging times to navigate,” he says. “Throughout my career, I don’t think I’ve ever had to deal with so many challenging decisions.”
Some of those choices have included furloughing staff members and reducing salaries, all while providing a continued high level of client service. “Fortunately,” he says, “our employees stepped up to the challenge and, together with our clients and partners, we have been able to weather this storm. We were very happy to welcome back many of our furloughed teammates throughout the end of 2020 and into 2021.”
Tickets.com is a global ticketing technology company headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM). Tickets.com was originally incorporated as Entertainment Express Inc. in 1995. One year later, the company's business operations were launched by its co-founders Irv Richter, David Richter, Jim Cassano and Larry Schwartz with the acquisition of Hill Arts and Entertainment Systems.
That same year, the company came under the control of Ventana Global, a California venture capital firm. The company then went on an acquisition spree, which included the purchase of Tickets.com, a company incubated by Idealab, in 1999. Following that acquisition, the entire company was rebranded as Tickets.com and subsequently made an initial public offering led by Morgan Stanley that raised $75 million.
The following June, the company negotiated a deal that would lead to its eventual acquisition, winning the exclusive rights to be the provider of online ticketing services to MLBAM via a multiyear agreement. In 2005, Tickets.com was sold to Major League Baseball Advanced Media LP for $66 million.
Having been in the proverbial game for so long, Tickets.com has had little problem re-gearing for now when people have started buying tickets again in large numbers. “Our technology platform has been engineered to support high demand for sales, servicing and entry into a venue,” Choti says. “We have focused on delivering new features such as online credit consumption, new protected on-sale features and package seat relocation tools to allow patrons unprecedented sales opportunities and self-management capabilities. By leveraging ProVenue’s native functionality, we continue to support safe ways to bring patrons back to live events. We have engaged with our clients on numerous strategies to bring patrons safely back to live events including increased use of digital ticketing, social distance seating, vaccinated sections and more.”
Challenges remain, of course. The Delta variant has emerged as a real concern. And some venues and events are still at diminished/limited seating capacity for safety concerns and social distancing mandates. “One can make the argument that the live events industry was hit the hardest during COVID-19,” Choti says. “I firmly believe that events are back, and the demand will only continue to grow. However, if capacity constraints continue, we will continue to innovate and evolve in collaboration with our clients and partner to ensure patrons get the experiences they want and deserve.”
He continues, “We are already seeing capacity limits being lifted or eliminated in many places. I think what we need to look at long term is the ability to be flexible in putting measures back in place should any new restrictions be placed. No one could have predicted a pandemic, but I think we should certainly review and strength disaster recovery plans across our industry.”
Choti has over two decades of industry experience. He joined Tickets.com in October 2010 as Chief Technology Officer. Before that, he held the CTO title for MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM).
Technology has been a strong point of his leadership throughout his career, and it continues to be at Tickets.com. “Tickets.com has been increasingly focused on digital ticketing,” says Choti, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Wesleyan University. “We saw a huge shift in adoption as our clients rolled out existing contactless features as they were reopening. Our continued commitment is to provide a frictionless experience at each venue and continue to release new features and functionality to support these initiatives.”
Through it all, Choti has maintained his optimism. He points to several major events as reason for his positive outlook for the second half of 2021 and beyond. “A few exciting highlights include: MLB Opening Day, with fans back in the stands and the continued lifting of restrictions across ballparks; restrictions on NASCAR races lifting; Cheyenne Frontier Days selling over 103,000 tickets in a single day; Elton John’s Farewell Tour booking at ballparks and venues across the country; and Wolf Trap celebrating their 50th anniversary with fans back in [Northern Virginia],” he says. “We are looking forward to Broadway tours and other arts events coming back later this year with lessons learned from other live events that came before them.”
That said, Choti concedes that live events will likely be forever changed as a result of COVID-19. How could they not be? But, again, Choti is optimistic that some of these changes will be for the better. “Fans are going to be more aware of safety throughout the patron journey. Across many industries, the protective measures that were in place are now a standard for people, and they will not be going away.”
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Tags: Leadership , COVID-19 , Coronavirus