ComcastTIX Defends Fees

A recent Philadelphia newspaper study uncovered increases in ticket service fees following the launch of ComcastTIX, and while Comcast-Spectacor officials have called some fees mistakes, they are defending others.

The company took over ticketing services from Ticketmaster for a handful of Comcast-Spectacor’s flagship venues October 3rd, including Philadelphia’s The Wachovia Center and The Wachovia Spectrum, The Liacouras Center at Temple University, the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J., and the Borgata Hotel / Casino in Atlantic City. Comcast-Spectacor’s contract with Ticketmaster ended October 2nd.

In the buildup to the ComcastTIX debut, the company touted a range of new features for service users, including e-mail alerts for upcoming concerts, packaged purchases to give users stored value on their tickets for concessions, merchandise and parking, VIP perks for the company’s phone, cable and Internet subscribers, and the option to forward tickets to friends via e-mail.

Apart from the new personalized services, Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko told the Philadelphia Daily News at the time of the announcement that the prices of ticketing service fees were unlikely to change for most events.

“We hope to do something about lowering the service charge on family shows we present here,” Luukko said. “And there’s no reason for someone who buys a cheap ticket in the upper deck to be paying the same service charge as someone who’s bought an expensive ticket on the floor.”

But when the local paper studied service fees for events at the Wachovia Center and Wachovia Spectrum before and after the changeover, it found that fees at the venues, specifically for family shows, had not only stayed the same, but in some cases increased by as much as 79 percent.

That increase in particular referred to a $13 Harlem Globetrotters seat, which carried a $7.35 surcharge, up from the $4.25 service fee Ticketmaster reportedly charged for the same seat a month prior to the changeover.

John Page, chief operating officer of Global Spectrum, Comcast-Spectacor’s facility management sector, told Pollstar that in the rush and excitement to do the service conversion, some things were overlooked.

“We made a few mistakes,” Page said. “We’d hoped that the Globetrotters would wait until we were fully converted, but we had a Ticketmaster element that we did a presell with in September before our conversion date in October.

“We’d lumped and got a couple of the events in the wrong service charge categories,” Page continued. “When that was brought to our attention, we then made the adjustments on the Globetrotters and even on one of our minor league sports teams.”

But what about those family shows? According to Page, ComcastTIX’s tickets for family shows and minor league sporting events should have the same, if not slightly less expensive service charges, as before the conversion.

And even concert tickets should be comparable to current market rates, he said.

“It’s not like we’re charging more than anybody else, now we’ve just made ourselves in alignment with what some of the other venues are charging,” Page said.

He said that with or without the recent conversion to ComcastTIX, the marketplace was due for a service charge increase, and would have faced one even if Ticketmaster’s contract had been renewed.

Despite some minor bumps at the onset of the regional ComcastTIX, its larger parent division New Era tickets (also owned by Comcast-Spectacor) is rolling out ticketing services under different branded concept names in markets across the country.

The services all use Paciolan technology to enable clients to customize, sell and manage their own tickets, cutting out third-party distributors.

“The concept is to continue to roll out these ticket systems as they pitch the services, and really the revenue share model as they compete with Ticketmaster, Vertical Alliance, – you know, any other ticketing service option – those are our competitors,” Page said. “But the goal is to acquire as many accounts and as many markets as possible.”

– Dana Parker-McClain