Spectra Signs Distribution Deal With Re-Branded Ticket Galaxy as Reseller Pivots Away From Fraud Settlement

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The deal with the newly named Prolific 1 was announced weeks after Ticket Galaxy's owner agreed to pay a $1.5 million penalty for short-selling tickets.

After multiple lawsuits and a July settlement against Don Vacarro's companies Ticket Galaxy and TicketNetwork with the New York State Attorney General, Eventvest, the holding company for Ticket Galaxy, has rebranded itself as Prolific 1 and formed a partnership with Spectra, North America's fourth-largest venue management company.

Vacarro, majority owner of Prolific 1 and TicketNetwork, isn't getting out of the consumer ticketing business or ditching brands like Ticket Galaxy, TicketLiquidator or Scorebig, and the Prolific 1's president and CEO Sean Morse denies the rebrand is tied to the string of payments it made to settle lawsuits with regulators. But when Spectra internally told employees about the agreement last November, they asked their employees to not publicly discuss the details.

"We understand that the secondary marketplace is a sensitive topic, so we are asking you to keep the specifics of our partnership internal," Spectra’s president of content, arenas and stadiums John Page wrote in an email to Spectra managers.

That partnership is now public folllowing a July press release from Prolific 1, officially announcing that the 20-year-old venue management firm started by late Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider and now owned by the Comcast-control $5 billion equity fund Atarios would work with Prolific 1 to sell tickets to a larger audience. And while Morse says “our rebranding as Prolific 1 had absolutely nothing to do with the NY AG settlement” in which TicketNetwork paid a $1.5 million settlement for a lawsuit alleging the company was selling tickets it didn't actually own and allegedly lying to consumers, Morse waited nine months until after the Spectra agreement was first struck, and two weeks after the fraud settlement was finalized to announce the partnership.

That lawsuit from New York attorney general Letitia James alleged Ticket Galaxy, TicketNetwork and TicketNetwork CEO Don Vaccaro “defrauded thousands of New Yorkers and duped customers into spending millions of dollars” through its speculative ticket sales program. 

Speculative ticket sales won't be allowed as part of Spectra deal, explains vp client experience and ticketing Jacque Holowaty, who tells Billboard the partnership is aimed at helping “the promoters who bring shows to our buildings with insights into what tickets are going for on the secondary market.”

Spectra also wouldn’t say which promoters would sell tickets through Prolific 1, but Billboard reached out to officials at Live Nation and a half-dozen indie promoters that bring shows to Spectra buildings. All said they wouldn’t allow their tickets to be sold on the secondary market and didn’t plan to utilize Prolific 1’s analytic tools. Spectra officials also acknowledged that they wouldn’t offer the program in Ontario, Canada, where the company operates five arenas, because of concerns the program is not compliant with local laws.

The agreement also comes after former Ticket Galaxy president Steve Kobelski quietly left the company in March, just months after he detailed during a deposition in the New York lawsuit how his company often sold tickets it didn't own at very high markups. 

Speaking with officials at firms like Ticketmaster, experts tell Billboard brokers often use bot software to both buy up tickets and slow ticket sales so that some fans get frustrated and buy the heavily marked up tickets. Once the order is placed, the broker attempts to buy the ticket from other brokers at discount and profit off the margin between the original price and the heavily marked up price.

Companies owned by Vacarro have had to pay settle other cases over its practices, including a $1.4 million settlement from TicketNetwork and marketing partners Ryadd and SBO following a suit filed by Federal Trade Commission and State of Connecticut over allegations TicketNetwork created websites with misleading domain names to trick consumers into “thinking they were buying event tickets from the original venue at face value.” And in 2015, an investigative report in the Seattle Times alleged the company "just shrugged" when its brokers reneged on dozens of tickets bought by Super Bowl fans who placed orders through TicketNetwork for tickets the company didn’t actually have. 

Spectra didn’t address the past allegations against companies tied to Prolific 1, but Holowaty did note Spectra would verify and guarantee any ticket sold through the program. Ultimately the agreement is designed meets specific needs for each firm -- Spectra has access to thousands of tickets, but it doesn't have a fraction of the millions of eyeballs Ticket Galaxy, TicketNetwork and the websites and points of sale it operates for brokers around the country do. Spectra does however have access to tickets, which Prolific 1 is hoping to sell through its network.

“Spectra’s partnership with Prolific 1 helps us accomplish several goals,” a statement from a Spectra spokesperson reads. “It helps promoters sell inventory through an additional sales distribution channel,” and provides “real-time insights from the secondary market” that the company plans to combine with Spectra’s own data “to create a holistic, 360-degree view of the lifecycle of an event.”

It’s not uncommon for secondary markets to work with rights holders, for instance, Stubhub integrated with Major League Baseball starting in 2009 to digitally authenticate and distribute tickets across multiple platforms. But Spectra and Prolific 1’s deal is not a digital ticket integration -- Ticketmaster and Paciolan don’t facilitate integrations with Prolific 1, Ticket Galaxy or TicketNetwork (and neither Ticketmaster nor Paciolan would provide comment for this article).

Instead, when Spectra venues want to sell or consign tickets to Prolific 1, they pull them off the ticket manifest and send the PDFs to Prolific 1, which isn’t limited to selling Spectra tickets on TicketNetwork sites. Tools like Autoprocessor -- similar to Ticketmaster’s Tradedesk program -- allow Prolific 1 to upload and sell tickets across multiple marketplaces including StubHub, Vivid Seats and Seat Geek.

"If the promoter wants to work with Prolific 1, however they want to provide tickets, whether it's Prolific 1 purchasing them directly, whether it's being consigned, (is) up to the promoter," explained Holowaty. “Ultimately this is just one more tool to help our partners sell more ticket and better understand their fans.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Prolific 1 and TicketNetwork are technically separate entities that operate from the same address. According to the New York AG's lawsuit, "Vaccaro is the majority owner and CEO of both TicketNetwork and Ticket Galaxy. He exercises significant managerial control over both companies." We also updated the language regarding the Seattle Times story on TicketNetwork.


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