Kartenhaus Falls To Ticketmaster

Within a month of teaming with DEAG to set up business in Germany, U.S.-based Ticketmaster has consolidated its position by purchasing Kartenhaus and basing its new operation in that company’s Hamburg headquarters.

The deal means that Kartenhaus will become the operating arm of Ticketmaster Deutschland. Kartenhaus founder Gudrun Barthel-Chumee will stay on as GM and steer the new company’s development in the German market.

The move looks guaranteed to shake up the entire European ticketing business.

Klaus-Peter Schulenberg, head of market leader CTS Eventim – who greeted DEAG’s original announcement that it was going into ticketing by pretty well saying he’d believe it when he could see it – is now faced with his main promoter rival partnering the world brand leader on his own doorstep.

For Ticketmaster, which has technology that’s as good it gets, the deal means it now has the content (mainly via DEAG and existing Kartenhaus customers) and the local corporate infrastructure to muscle its way into Germany and western Europe.

The battle lines – as they’re drawn at the moment – show Ticketmaster with a U.K. stronghold. It also has a Scandinavian market dominance that was tied up when European business development vice president Paul Lafontaine added the purchase of local ticketing giants Lippupalvelu (Finland) and BiljettDirekt Ticnet (Sweden) to the businesses it already had in Denmark and Norway. Lippupalvelu and BiljettDirekt sell more than 10 million ducats a year between them.

A year before Lafontaine arrived from the company’s Los Angeles headquarters to become what then-European executive VP Peter Jackson described “as our man on the ground,” the company bought Holland’s Ticket Service Nederland, which is now shifting over 3 million tickets a year.

CTS currently dominates the German market, with its 2004 online business showing a 146 percent increase in earnings from euro 3.7 million to euro 9.2 million.

“Every time the company sells a ticket by Internet it makes five euros,” Susanne Jahrreiss of Engel & Zimmermann, which handles CTS financial public relations, explained at the time.

Its content providers include the five promoters it has (roughly) half shares in: Argo Concerts, Dirk Becker, Folkert Koopmans, Marek Lieberberg, Peter Rieger and Semmel Concerts. They add up to a massive chunk of the German live music business.

CTS’ flagship project is next year’s World Cup, with the soccer tournament predicted to bring in over 3 million ticket sales and a box-office gross of around euro 250 million. It should increase CTS 2005 revenues by euro 30 million (US$36.2 million).

The tickets have been on sale since the beginning of February and are being channeled through a special system CTS set up with stadiums in a dozen German cities.

As of November 2nd, the kartenhaus.de Web site was already flagging that it was “A Ticketmaster Company.” A Ticketmaster press expected later in the day said the purchase of Kartenhaus (no amount disclosed) “reflects Ticketmaster’s commitment to strategic international development throughout the European market.”

Although Kartenhaus isn’t exactly the house of cards its name suggests – Lafontaine pointed out it’s “an award-winning service and a trusted name in the German market” – the speculation is bound to focus on what’s likely to happen next.

An obvious target would appear to be the Zurich-based Ticketcorner as Andre Bechir’s Good News, the Swiss-based promoter in which DEAG still has the largest stake, must be its best customer. And the press release announcing Ticketmaster’s deal with DEAG had Lafontaine saying it would establish the company in “Germany and the surrounding German-speaking countries.”

CTS has something of a stranglehold on the territory between Austria and the Adriatic, with satellite companies dotted around what was once Yugoslavia. Serge Grimaux’s Prague-based Ticketpro is another of the few remaining independents with its own square on the board.

However, there are not even rumours of talks with either CTS or Ticketmaster, although Grimaux’s links with Clear Channel – which now owns the Czech promoting company he runs with Robert Porkert – and that company’s links with Ticketmaster would seem to make CTS the less-likely future partner.

So far, Grimaux has not commented beyond saying Ticketmaster’s entry into the German market is “interesting” because previous attempts to challenge Eventim’s dominance have faltered.

“For most people in Germany, it’s almost a reflex reaction to think of CTS when buying tickets for a live event, but I’m sure Ticketmaster knows that the key to success lies in changing that perception,” he explained.

— John Gammon