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Just the ticket: NBA and Ticketmaster renew their decade-old official marketplace deal

By Bret McCormick

Ticketmaster and the NBA have renewed their deal that originally made the agency the league’s official ticketing marketplace in 2012. The two sides’ 2018 renewal of the initial deal was nearing its end, but they’ve agreed to a multiyear extension with undisclosed financial terms.

  

“It’s an extremely long-standing relationship between Ticketmaster and the NBA and their partner teams where we’re just looking for constant ways to innovate and streamline ticket buying in general. The league has always been extremely focused on that, as has Ticketmaster,” said Kurt Schwartzkopf, Ticketmaster executive president and co-head of sports, North America.

Ticketmaster has individual deals with 23 NBA teams. Its first leaguewide deal with the NBA included a combined primary and secondary ticket marketplace for NBA teams and fans; like that one, the latest deal also includes the WNBA and G League.

Ticketmaster and the NBA’s partnership has long been characterized by early adoption, including digital ticketing, which, post-pandemic, has finally become ubiquitous after years of industry flirtation. In some cases, NBA teams were a decade or more ahead of other teams, leagues and organizations in the industry on digital ticketing. And pre-pandemic, the Miami Heat were the first adopter of Ticketmaster’s rotating barcode tech, which tamps down on fraudulent tickets.

Jonathan Tillman, NBA senior vice president, team marketing and business operations, said the renewed deal puts more emphasis on Ticketmaster benefiting from the league’s various social media and digital outlets, including more direct linking of social posts to Ticketmaster ticket sales landing pages, for example.

The renewal comes amid turbulent times for live sports ticketing. Competition in the industry seems to have increased, especially with SPAC deals significantly boosting the financial clout of SeatGeek and Vivid Seats, and StubHub dropping back into the pack after a protracted merger with Viagogo that undercut its market share.

All of that occurs in the background of fan-facing ticketing trends, like decreasing interest in 20th century-type season ticket plans, an increasingly muddied line between the primary and secondary ticketing markets, or digital ticketing’s numerous trickle-down impacts. Innovating to address those evolving trends will be especially critical for the NBA and Ticketmaster’s partnership.

“For the next generation of fans, flexibility in ticketing products and development of new tools to engage those fans — whether flexible ticketing, subscription plans, improved interfaces for purchasing — is very important,” said Tillman.

And NFTs will certainly be a prominent aspect of Ticketmaster and the NBA’s future business and collaboration. Ticketmaster worked with the Dallas Mavericks on the team’s recent NFT ticket program, a collaboration that was emblematic of the NBA’s approach to NFTs; the team drove the idea.

“Those are the things we talk about with the league all the time, creating great moments for fans during, before, after the game,” Schwartzkopf said. “Anywhere there is a touch point.”

It’s not clear if the NBA will follow the NFL’s lead on appending NFTs to tickets. Working with Ticketmaster (and SeatGeek and StubHub), the NFL is offering complimentary NFTs to fans who attend select games between Thanksgiving and the end of the season. Ticketmaster built a marketplace where fans can manage their NFT collections.

“More on that, to come,” said Tillman. “We’ve been exploring some opportunities for similar type activations … to do more of those tied to the game itself.”

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