E-Stamp and Ticketmaster.com became instant rivals today as both companies introduced new systems to allow consumers to purchase tickets online and print them at home on their PCs.
The systems, if adopted by entertainment venues, would shorten ticket lines for consumers. However, ticket holders would experience greater delays in getting into these establishments, because each ticket would have to be scanned by a bar code reader. Both companies claim that their systems would lower the cost of ticket production and virtually eliminate ticket counterfeiting.
The nearly identical systems were displayed Tuesday at the International Ticketing Association’s Annual Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When the ticket is ordered, a unique ID is assigned and printed as a bar code on the user’s home PC printer. No special software is needed.
Both companies said that printed tickets can be accompanied by coupons and advertising from local merchants, which could potentially turn a cost center into a profit center for the venue. The tickets can also come with directions to the event and parking instructions.
Market To Lag as Venues Install New Systems
While the systems are simple for consumers, they require the venues to install bar code readers, a local area network (LAN), a connection to the Internet, and possibly a server. As a result, there will be a time lag before the new technology can catch on with the public.
Ticketmaster.com said that it has already anticipated this issue and plans to share in the cost of these installations. As the market leader in selling tickets, Ticketmaster believes that it has an advantage over E-Stamp because of its existing relationships with sports arenas, stadiums, performing arts venues and theaters.
E-Stamp does not yet have any strategic ticketing partners, and plans to market its technology to theaters and other venues that do not use Ticketmaster. The company believes that there is a strong market in small theaters that are looking to lower ticketing expenses, add convenience for its customers, and add extra revenues from advertising.
High Expectations for the System
Tom Stockham, executive vice-president of Ticketmaster-Online City Search, predicts that by the end of this year, 25 percent of online customers that are eligible to print their own tickets will do so.
“The Ticketmaster.com electronic ticket is the future of online event ticketing,” Stockham said. “Ticketmaster.com’s electronic ticket service will help people get things done faster and more efficiently than they could offline. You can go directly from home to the event.”
E-Stamp CEO Robert Ewald said that his firm also has high expectations for the new technology. “E-Stamp is in a unique position as the pioneer of a secure e-commerce platform that basically enables the printing of currency,” said Ewald. “Printing postage was only the first step in developing a suite of enabling technologies. We are now applying and licensing this technology for other secure e-commerce transactions such as ticketing.”
At the National Retail Federation’s Annual Conference last week, E-Stamp introduced a similar system for retailers that allows them to provide coupons over the Internet.
Will Consumers Print Their Own Tickets?
Whether the new systems will catch on with the public remains to be seen. David Card, an analyst from Jupiter Communications, believes that the success of Ticketmaster.com’s system will depend upon whether venues are willing to install bar code readers.
“People do get nervous about not having the physical tickets, as with electronic tickets for airlines,” Card said, “but that’s a hump people are getting over. It’ll be useful for kids, or people with no IDs or credit cards, and it might help avoid the call-window, but that’s not a huge deal.”
The real advantage in PC-based ticket printing, Card added, may be the ability to personalize direct marketing to users. Since the systems print out on a regular 8 x 11 paper, the rest of the sheet will be used to print special offers from merchants working in affiliation with the venue.