Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd. has entered the Australian entertainment ticketing sector. The media conglomerate has bought Moshtix, the country's third largest ticketing group, through its News Digital Media (NDM) affiliate for an unspecified amount.

Hamish Petrie, who set up Moshtix in 2003, will remain with the company to oversee expansion plans.

The Australian ticketing sector is dominated by two major players -- Ticketek and Ticketmaster -- both which claim to sell 10 million tickets each year to music, sporting, movie and arts events.

Ticketek is owned by James Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL). Ticketmaster 7 entered the local market in 1999 as a partnership between U.S. parent Ticketmaster and TV and magazine company Seven; in April 2005, Ticketmaster bought out Seven's stake.

Petrie found a niche in the market by targeting small music venues, cinemas and promoters, and using a more cost effective paperless online model.

Under NDM, Moshtix will expand from having 170 accounts in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne to becoming a national operation. It will negotiate deals with smaller independent venues in the other cities, Petrie says.

NDM will also tie-up ticketing as an add-on for its series of Web sites. The largest of these is MySpace which News Corp bought last year, and which boasts 2.13 million users in Australia and 146 million globally.

Moshtix's volume of business is not known, but promoters and venue owners tell that it is believed to be profitable.

"News Corp has an amazing grasp of the entertainment industry -- particularly in Australia through its (previous) involvement in record companies as Festival Records and Mushroom Records," says concert promoter and venue operator Michael Jacobsen.

Sydney-based Jacobsen is CEO of Arena Management, which operates the Sydney Entertainment Centre and Sydney Capitol Theatre and managing director of concert and theatre promoter Jacobsen Entertainment.

"At a macro level, to tie a ticketing company into a social network such as MySpace is an advanced and intelligent concept which will raise the bar in the ticketing industry and create a third major player."