CTS Eventim Planning North American Expansion, Starting With Big Apple Circus

Klaus-Peter Schulenberg
 CTS Eventim

Klaus-Peter Schulenberg 

German ticketing company plans joint venture with Michael Cohl.

CTS Eventim, the German-based second largest ticketing company in the word, is again eying North America as part of its planned global expansion.

CEO Klaus-Peter Schulenberg announced the news Friday (Sept. 24), saying in a statement the $7 billion company plans to “provide an alternative to the dominant providers” -- a reference to its rival Live Nation-owned Ticketmaster. In 2009, Live Nation had partnered with CTS Eventim to power Live Nation Tickets, a platform meant to challenge Ticketmaster, which dominated North America. But after problems launching the system, Live Nation officials scrapped the deal and reached a surprise agreement to merge with Ticketmaster instead. CTS Eventim sued for breach of contract and Live Nation ultimately prevailed in arbitration in 2013.

The arrival of the Munich-based firm that generated $270 million in net earnings in 2019 was timed to coincide with news that its first U.S. client, Big Apple Circus, was going on sale Sunday (Sept. 26) through CTS Eventim. The long-running show from the world-famous Wallenda family is not taking place inside of a venue but a temporary big tent installation outside of the Lincoln Center in New York.

“North America is the most attractive market in the world for live entertainment and ticketing,” Schulerberg said in a statement. “The platform puts us in an ideal position to benefit from the restart there. The sale of tickets for Big Apple Circus is a first step on this journey. We are already in discussions with potential partners and customers about making our cutting-edge ticketing systems available to them soon.”

The Big Apple Circus is being co-produced by veteran entertainment executive Michael Cohl, a longtime promoter of bands like The Rolling Stones who briefly served as chairman of Live Nation in 2008. For much of the last decade he’s been producing touring shows through his company S2BN and a recent $10 million payout from the Small Business Administration as part of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants program would indicate the company earned at least $20 million in 2019, based on application rules.

Cohl has formed a joint venture with CTS Eventim to produce content called EMC Presents with “the goal of bringing leading international artists to stages in the United States and Canada,” according to a release issued by CTS Eventim.

If more deals with Cohl continue, that kind of business activity could be very helpful for CTS Eventim as it tries to expand in the U.S., although it does little to solve a larger obstacle facing the German ticketer -- venues hold the ticketing contracts in the U.S., not touring shows. Ticketing contracts for major venues only become available when the old contracts expire. In order to grow, CTS Eventim will need to try and peel away Ticketmaster’s clients one by one, an effort that will take significant time, money and resources with no guarantee of success.

CTS could also grow through an acquisition, but only ticketing company available in the U.S. that would put CTS Eventim in the same league as Ticketmaster would be the AEG-owned AXS and a source tells Billboard there’s no interest at AEG.

CTS Eventim’s growth plans aren’t solely tied to the U.S. This summer also saw the launch of Eventim Live Asia. The new company, headquartered in Singapore and is led by former Live Nation Jason Miller and is focused developing opportunities in China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.