Tickets & Touts: Viagogo’s Cris Miller Talks StubHub, Moving Past COVID

Cris Miller
– Cris Miller
VP of Business Development for Viagogo.

As the live industry roars back to life, Viagogo stands ready to take the mantle of “World’s Largest Secondary Platform.” After being bogged down by regulatory hurdles, the company is finally ready to move forward with its acquisition of StubHub and provide a marketplace for tickets in at least 68 countries. 

Now leading the resale pack, Viagogo has been a target of general frustration with the ticketing industry and in specific lawsuits and court cases in several countries. 

Cris Miller, now Viagogo’s VP of Business Development, talked with Pollstar about the company’s position in the marketplace and what lies ahead. 

Pollstar: You’ve said one thing you are really focused on is flexibility. What are some of the initiatives Viagogo is working on to provide more flexibility?
Cris Miller: We have taken a number of specific steps to provide more flexibility and protections to customers. Customers using our platform were given the option of a cash refund or 125% voucher for canceled events, and we’ve set up a dedicated COVID-19 team to ensure safety protocols are articulated to buyers and sellers using our site.
Unfortunately, we are expecting localized outbreaks to remain a persistent threat to the staging of sporting events, concerts and other live performances. This can give pause to customers wanting to purchase tickets, but our ability to provide protection and flexibility for fans will mean resale platforms, like Viagogo, will play a vital role in the event industry’s pandemic recovery.

Can you provide any numbers about the devastation COVID-19 wrought on your business?
The impact of COVID-19 has obviously been devastating for us as it has been for the events industry as a whole. We saw activity on our platform practically come to a standstill in March of 2020. 

With that said, we kept our resolve and focused on ensuring that customers secured refunds or vouchers. And in recent months, we’ve seen some promising jumps in activity. In the UK for example, our site experienced a 23% rise in ticket sales in April, compared to the previous month so we are optimistic about events returning and surpassing 2019 levels soon.

What is Viagogo’s perspective on the recovery, operating in so many markets at different stages of recovering from COVID-19?
As a global business operating in many different markets and with varying levels of restrictions, it has been immensely challenging. For instance, maintaining accurate information with all of the event cancellations versus postponements across the globe was the most difficult [challenge] administratively, and I give our team a lot of credit for stepping up to that task.
Where restrictions have eased we have seen a significant increase in traffic and demand. Now more than ever I think customers realize the importance of a regulated and secure ticket resale platform like Viagogo versus classified or social media sites that don’t provide the same piece of mind.
Given that we are a global platform we are also well positioned to support travelling fans in finding tickets abroad and to help fulfill international demand once restrictions on travel start to be lifted on a more significant scale. This has always been a hallmark of our business and I would expect the “event travel” sector to explode.

As I understand it, the StubHub deal is finally being allowed to go forward, as long as Viagogo divests of all StubHub business outside of North America. Is this the case? How does the company feel about this situation?
Yes, that’s correct. We are pleased to have found a solution that is acceptable to the UK Competition and Markets Authority that will allow everyone involved to move forward with clarity and certainty.

Importantly, both Viagogo and StubHub will continue to provide a safe and secure platform for people to buy and sell tickets to events all over the world.

What is something you wish more people understood about your company’s experience during the COVID-19 pandemic?
That we did everything we could to protect fans as events were canceled and postponed around the world. As difficult as it has been, we really do appreciate our customers’ patience and confidence in our service.

Almost immediately, we offered an industry leading 125% voucher or full refund back to our customers. We have seen a big jump in the use of vouchers in the past two months which I think has shown we are seeing consumer confidence return, but also that we succeeded in supporting fans through a very difficult 12-plus months. We’ll also continue that support going forward through these next uncertain reopening phases.

Many voices are calling for restrictions on ticket resale, through legislation or just private technology. What is Viagogo’s position on this matter? 
It is our goal to always work closely with the regulators in the markets where we operate and beginning in 2019, we have made a vast number of changes to our platform in response to that engagement.
Many of the calls for increased legislation come from a misunderstanding of resale and a desire by some to control the wider events industry.
The reality is, there will always be people wanting to resell their tickets and there will always be fans willing to pay a price they deem fair. This demand existed before we came along. That can be done through a safe, regulated platform such as Viagogo, or through unregulated classified sites and marketplaces or on the streets outside venues.
For the industry to function at its strongest, improving collaboration between the primary and resale markets is needed now more than ever. Better collaboration would help reduce fraud, maximize revenue for artists and venues and create an overall improved fan experience.
Once the StubHub acquisition goes through, Viagogo will be the undisputed largest secondary ticketing platform in the world. What are the company’s goals, once it’s operating from that position?
Our mission is to give fans access to the world’s biggest events and that has not changed.
Uniting the two companies will mean buyers have a wider choice of tickets, and sellers will have a wider network of buyers. It creates a win-win for fans – more choice and better pricing.
I am excited for the pandemic recovery, and I am excited to see where the coming years will take the events industry and Viagogo.