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NFL Introduces Sporting World’s First Fully Digital Ticketing System

11 Jul, 2018

By: Michael Popke

Beginning this fall, Ticketmaster will provide the National Football League with the first open-architecture, fully digital ticketing system in all of sports. The move has the potential to significantly alter the game-day experience, according to Justin Burleigh, Ticketmaster’s chief product officer for North America — primarily in the form of less fraud and more fan-team connection.

“Our industry has fundamentally always been plagued by issues that are at the core of ticketing, which are anonymity and fraud,” Burleigh recently told CBS New York. “We’ve talked for a while over the last year about a case study at Orlando City’s soccer stadium, where they just went completely digital. They went from about 120 cases of fraud per game to zero. They had no fraud for an entire season, and for us, that’s one of the most important metrics of the shift.”

As CBS New York explains:

The anonymity of paper tickets, buying and selling, presents problems for both the team and consumer. … The team has no way of truly knowing who is in what seat in their stadium with paper tickets. Sure, they have the names of season ticket holders or group leaders that buy tickets in bulk, but they don’t know who receives the tickets after the initial purchase. Because of this, teams have been unable to connect with some fans at the games. As for the consumer (the fan), if they’re not the title owner of the ticket, the team can’t build a relationship with them or personalize their experience. Paper tickets also present a risk of fraud, with the seller making multiple copies of the same tickets and selling them to various people.

According to a statement issued by the NFL, the move to digital ticketing will allow teams to “gain access to a range of real-time insights … to help them better serve their customers and deliver a more secure in-venue environment.”  

Ticketmaster rolled out its Presence venue software system in 2017, which is installed in more than 50 venues throughout North America.  With it, the ability to convert paper to digital tickets provides content owners better control over how and where their tickets are purchased, managed and sold. The system also will be used for concerts and other events held at NFL stadiums. 

“Ticketmaster Presence will help create smart venues and give fans easier, safer ways to attend events,” Jared Smith, president of Ticketmaster North America said in a statement. “Delivering the definitive digital ticketing system provides content holders like the NFL powerful new tools to service their fans.”

Whether the system will permeate sports events at the local and regional levels, however (much less regional and local events, including travel sports and youth events), is uncertain. After all, not all fans appear to appreciate this new approach. “Come on, Seahawks! We gotta keep those hold-in-your-hand tickets. It’s traditional. It’s real,” wrote Peter House, a Seattle Seahawks season ticket holder since 1997 ina letter to the team that was forwarded to The Seattle Times. “Ticketless entry just turns one more good thing into those ephemeral pixels on a screen. It will take all the fun out of giving tickets to my friends and family. What will I do now? Send them an email?”

If House doesn’t email his tickets to friends and family — opting instead to receive his season tickets in physical form — he could be assessed an additional $35 fee. The Seahawks’ punitive fee only applies to new season ticket holders this season, butTicketNews.comreports “that could change in the future, as could the penalty amount for those wishing to keep from being tethered to a mobile device [because a policy] has not been determined for any year beyond this one.”

And what about those fans who like to keep their ticket stub as a game souvenir? Ticketmaster is working on that, too, according to Burleigh.

“We’re all fans, we all love going to live events and working for a company where that’s at the core of what we do,” he told CBS New York. “I’m a guy who collects vinyl and has ticket stubs from when I went to shows when I was younger all the way up until recently. We are thinking pretty deeply about how [you can] have a digital experience but get a commemorative ticket or lanyard, those types of things. We’re not ready yet to announce what we’re thinking in that regard, but we are thinking about it.”

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