Amazon Ends U.K. Ticketing Business, May Return With New Platform in 2019
Retail giant unveiled new Alexa-enabled ticketing platform to several show producers, Billboard has learned
Amazon is shuttering its U.K. ticketing business, but might be quietly preparing for a 2019 relaunch with new technology and tie-ins with Amazon Echo and Firestick, Billboard has learned.
The online retailer had been using technology by London ticketing software firm Ingresso to power some of its online sales in the U.K. But late last year, Amazon officials began quietly meeting with show producers at its Seattle headquarters with a presentation detailing plans to phase out the current ticketing program and replace it with a new ticketing platform tied into Amazon devices like the voice-activated Echo speaker and the Firestick TV streaming device, utilizing its AI-driven personal assistant software Alexa to make searching for tickets easier.
Amazon had been looking to roll out the new ticketing service in the first quarter of 2019, sources tell Billboard, although it's now unclear if that plan has also been shelved with the news that the company is halting its U.K. operation.
An Amazon spokesperson would not confirm to Billboard that the online retail giant was relaunching next year but did issue a statement saying, “We are closing Amazon Tickets; however, all tickets purchased by customers at any time remain valid.”
According to IQ, James Moore, Amazon Tickets’ category director for music, sent out an email to its show partners saying Amazon “has taken the decision to close Amazon Tickets, and today (Feb. 21) will commence the process of marking back to you any tickets currently on our website and of ceasing the sale of new tickets."
The sudden closure is the second hiccup for Amazon in the ticketing space after abandoning efforts in 2017 to launch a ticket service in the United States, having failed to reach a deal with Ticketmaster owner Live Nation for access to tickets for high-demand events.
Because of a lack of exclusive venue contracts in the U.K., as opposed to those that exist in the U.S., Amazon was able to make deals with several major promoters in the country, offering its services as a third-party distributor of tickets marketed to its launch customer base. While the company had some success selling tickets, and even launched a Prime Events division with events by artists including Blondie, Amazon stumbled in the U.S.
Nine months after entering talks to become a distributor for Ticketmaster -- which controls 80 percent of the major concerts in the United States -- Amazon found itself without much leverage and with fundamentally different needs than Ticketmaster. Hoping to get the best tickets to in-demand shows to its customers, Amazon pitched a plan to sell top-tier inventory to its huge customer base.
But Live Nation officials told Amazon they didn't need help moving tickets for Beyoncé or Bruce Springsteen. Instead, the world's largest concert promoter wanted help hawking tickets to shows that don’t sell out immediately, incrementally moving the needle on the estimated 40-50 percent of industry inventory that goes otherwise unsold.
There was also a disagreement over data -- Amazon was reluctant to share purchasing data and contact information for its estimated 85 million Prime subscribers -- and the talks stalled out. By late November of last year the deal was dead and two of the ticketing operation's top executives -- Geraldine Wilson, Amazon U.K.'s GM of tickets, and Jason Carter, Amazon Prime live events director -- had both left the company.