Why did Ticketmaster’s ticket transfer feature go down more than an hour before kickoff at Super Bowl LVI? With all the technology at our fingertips, that’s a serious letdown.
Every year, the Super Bowl news cycle includes a slew of stories about the outrageous secondary market prices for tickets to the big game.
Given the pomp and circumstance of the hometown Rams playing an LA Super Bowl in their own stadium, the expectation was that asking prices would be among the most expensive in history — and they did not disappoint. At one point during the Championship-Weekend-to-Super-Bowl fortnight, the “get-in” price topped $10,000.
And now, with the game now ended and Rams fans still very much entrenched in their post-championship delirium, some disturbing ticketing stories are starting to trickle out from SoFi Stadium in Inglewood:
There’s nothing here that prevented, say, thousands of fans from getting into SoFi Stadium — the packed house you saw on TV proves it — but it could be indicative of a very real problem in how ticketing works in sports and entertainment.
It starts with Ticketmaster, the oldest and most dominant player in the live event ticketing space and controller of 80% of the market share. The chances are that if you buy tickets to a game or a show at a major venue, you used Ticketmaster to buy those tickets at face value.
But Super Bowl ticket transfers between users were disabled on Ticketmaster’s platform more than an hour before Sunday’s kickoff, leaving fans who embraced the reasonably common practice of waiting until close to go-time to buy cheapening tickets on the secondary market with nowhere to turn.
Secondary ticket Exchanges that weren’t integrated either took down inventory or had sales come in that sellers couldn’t transfer. A complete mess. Halfway through the first quarter the system was restored. Not sure who, what, or why is responsible but heads should roll today.— JMIII (@tickets113) February 14, 2022
The prices you hear quoted in the media about Super Bowl tickets aren’t retail rates, but the rise-and-fall asking prices on the secondary market where countless re-sellers (both the professionals and the amateur opportunists alike) try to move tickets purchased at face value for a hefty profit on platforms like StubHub or Vivid Seats And if you have ever gone through the experience of trying to sell a ticket on such a platform, you know how much of a pain it can be, especially when it comes to actually getting the ticket to the buyer.
Sunday’s Ticketmaster letdown only made a potentially difficult situation more difficult — and needlessly so. Why put extra barriers in front of fans more than willing to spend $5,000 or more just to get into the building?
Given the technological advancements we have made — we put a man on the moon over half a century ago — you would think that being able to transfer an electronic ticket to another person would be easy, especially with an increasing number of ticketing partners being so gung-ho about expanding into other cutting-edge frontiers like NFTs.
The bad news? Today, that’s not the case.
The good news? There’s a whole year to turn the page (and potentially introduce more competition into the market) before Super Bowl LVII.
You might notice that when you use a site like StubHub there’s often a delay between when you actually buy a ticket and when it’s delivered to you, even if the ticket is just a QR code. That’s because Ticketmaster pays the NFL and others a sizable amount of money to be their “official ticketing provider,” and they don’t necessarily want to make it easy for the platforms that facilitate the resale of “their” tickets without cutting them in.
As a result, they made it nearly impossible for any secondary site to verify the authenticity of a ticket posted by a re-seller. To complicate matters further, it won’t let these other platforms integrate with theirs, which is why so many sites use some form of the honor system by asking you to transfer the tickets you sold to the buyer within a certain period of time.
Now rewind to Super Bowl Sunday.
As tends to happen with perishable goods like event tickets, prices began to drop closer to game time as people still holding their seats sought to unload them.
According to several reports on Twitter, Ticketmaster’s transfer ticket feature, which enables ticket buyers to send their tickets to other people stopped working about 75 minutes prior to kickoff. This meant that people who were holding electronic tickets (pretty much everyone) could no longer sell and deliver their tickets to buyers outside of Ticketmaster’s own platforms. This move has caused many to speculate whether it was deliberate or was merely a technical snafu.
Some professional resellers who were still holding inventory at the time seemed to be up in arms. but by the looks of the TV broadcast, it doesn’t seem like there were many empty seats in the house. Though Ticketmaster hasn’t necessarily earned the benefit of the doubt in situations like this, what happened Sunday seems like small potatoes compared to what it spells for the long-term for fans. The truth is, the vast majority of people who really wanted to go to the game, did.
The bigger issue here is what situations like this mean when it comes to a fan’s ability to choose ticket providers. We already pay exorbitant sums of money to see the teams, events, and performers we love, but now are being pushed to spend more money by only being able to effectively use Ticketmaster’s secondary market exchanges as opposed to theoretically cheaper options. That leaves us at the mercy of Ticketmaster’s decisions or even technical issues.
There aren’t many “good guys” in this space, so it might feel like a fool’s choice, but in a world where electronic personalized tickets are becoming the norm, doing simple things like transferring them to your buddy or selling your seats last minute when life inevitably gets in the way, are only becoming harder to do.
The story isn’t about a couple of aggrieved Super Bowl re-sellers on Twitter, it’s about how our ticketing choices dwindle by the day.