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technology

SeatGeek Partners With NFL in League's New Approach to Ticketing

  • Co-founder says proving to teams being open is best approach
  • Model for sports tickets compared with that for ride-sharing

SeatGeek is becoming a distribution partner of the National Football League, putting the mobile-first startup alongside larger rivals Ticketmaster and StubHub in the league’s new approach to ticketing.

The partnership lets New York City-based SeatGeek, a relative newcomer to the industry, sell verified NFL tickets through its own marketplace starting this year. That could include primary tickets sold directly from clubs as well as resale tickets listed by fans, inventory simultaneously listed through the other companies.

“Our goal has been to prove to teams that they will benefit from being open, as opposed to the closed, legacy systems,” said SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza. “Now the largest league in the world is embracing the concept, and we’re thrilled to be part of that network.”

The NFL in October announced it was renewing its long-standing partnership with Ticketmaster in a different way, moving away from an exclusive contract and toward a model that allowed other league-approved companies to access verified tickets and sell them across the internet. Resale giant StubHub, which is owned by EBay Inc., was the first partner to join, and SeatGeek is the second. Terms of the partnership weren’t announced.

The Future?

The new approach to ticketing allows NFL franchises to sell in more places, all while keeping data from the transactions, which is important for both security and fan outreach. Many in the ticket industry consider it the future of the marketplace, and the NFL is the first U.S. sports league to embrace it with all of its teams.

For SeatGeek, the deal moves it alongside the industry’s biggest companies for access to NFL inventory. Football fans will be able to buy tickets instantaneously and transfer them seamlessly through the SeatGeek site -- all with the guarantee that the ticket is real and hasn’t been double-sold. Such fraudulent sales are rare, but they do happen, and the specter looms over the entire resale industry.

‘Lowering the Barrier’

D’Souza compared the open ticketing model to what ride-sharing apps like Uber have done for transportation: now that rides are available at the click of a button, more people take them. “How do you get people to go to more events? You make it easier for them to buy and transfer tickets,” he said. “This is lowering the barrier.”

SeatGeek was founded in 2009 with the aim of using technology and a mobile-first platform to upend reselling of tickets for sports as well as concerts and theater. In 2017 the company raised $57 million to acquire TopTix, launching its push into primary ticketing. Investors include Glynn Capital, Causeway Media Partners and Accel, plus a handful of athletes, including NFL quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Eli Manning, and NBA star Carmelo Anthony.

SeatGeek’s primary ticketing clients include the New Orleans Saints and, according to ESPN, the Dallas Cowboys. D’Souza declined to comment on the Cowboys report.

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