Anschutz Entertainment Group has taken its first step in establishing itself as a significant player in the ticketing market and rivaling Live Nation's Ticketmaster by launching a website for its new ticketing platform, axs Ticketing.
On Monday evening (Aug. 22), sports and entertainment giant AEG officially rolled the new ticketing site axs.com. The platform is the first initiative under Outbox Enterprises, a joint venture involving AEG, Cirque du Soleil's Outbox Technology ticketing business and former Ticketmaster CEO Fred Rosen.
The first concert tickets available for purchase through axs (pronounced "access") will be a handful of shows at the AEG-operated Ogden Theatre and Bluebird Theater in Denver, beginning Aug. 27. Moving forward, all on-sales at those venues will be through axs.com. Until then, users who visit the site will only be able to search and browse AEG events, all of which lead to a different ticketing service.
AEG (which owns global events promoter AEG Live) plans to introduce axs Ticketing later this year to events at San Francisco's Warfield and Regency Ballroom. From there it will expand to other major domestic markets and international territories -- as well as sales for larger-sized venues and AEG's sports teams -- through 2012. London's AEG-owned O2 Arena will transition after the 2012 Olympics.
AEG's collection of 105 buildings it owns and/or operates is impressive, including the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Target Center in Minneapolis, the Best Buy Theater in New York, Sprint Center in Kansas City, MasterCard Center in Beijing and Acer Arena in Sydney.
"We're starting with our own venues; that's a big task," AEG senior VP of digital Todd Sims tells Billboard.biz. "Outbox, though, is an independent company. They will continue to go after new clients, independent venues and the like. We have not yet figured out what role axs will play in Outbox clients. But I expect there will be a role we can play there."
Outbox's ticketing model is based on a "white label" solution that allows venues to brand their own ticketing operation and own more flexibility on how tickets are sold. Therefore, the white label technology enables AEG to sell tickets under both axs.com and through their individual venue websites.
"For instance, on the website of the Ogden and Bluebird, you'll be able to go to those sites, find shows and transact all in a very Ogden or Bluebird look and feel. But if you're coming at it from an [axs.com] standpoint, it's an axs look and feel," Sims explains.
Venues using the axs Ticketing service will be the only online destination to purchase tickets for events taking place there, Sims points out. "You won't be able to buy those tickets elsewhere," he says. "Given the white label technology, we can form interesting distribution relationships and can create commerce opportunities wherever our consumers are. That might be at the artist level, at the venue level -- we might form regional or national partnerships that enable them to sell those tickets as well. But they will not be sold on another core ticketing platform beyond axs."
AEG's new ticketing platform brings competitive firepower to a market dominated by Live Nation's Ticketmaster. Outbox Enterprises is a formidable competitor to Ticketmaster, with as many as 12 million tickets to sell annually as AEG venues, tours, teams and events come online in the next two years. Ticketmaster, however, remains at the top of the ticketing food chain-it services more than 10,000 clients, moving 400 million-plus tickets annually.
Since Live Nation and Ticketmaster completed their merger in January 2010, AEG has been licensing Ticketmaster's ticketing software under one of the conditions set by the U.S. Department of Justice in its approval of the merger. Under that provision, the DOJ required that AEG have the ability to license the software for up to five years to help it establish its own ticketing business and preserve competition in the market. But AEG has chosen not to use that software and instead rely on the technology of Outbox.
"We're accelerating that and moving quickly to do that. So we announced our relationship with Outbox about seven months ago and here we are beginning the migration onto our own platform," Sims says. "Once we migrate onto our own ticketing platform, we won't need to use their ticketing platform."
In addition to axs.com, the service will be available on all mobile platforms and on social media sites, including Facebook (Facebook.com/AXS) and Twitter (twitter.com/AXS). As for ticketing fees, axs will show the full price of the ticket at check out and forgo print-at-home fees at the Odgen and Bluebird in Denver.
"The key thing is letting the consumers know so that they're not surprised at the end that their ticket price is much higher than they thought," Sims says. "In terms of the service charge, there's a service charge and there are delivery fees -- will call or mail options, which have real costs associated with them. What we've done with these two venues in Colorado is remove the print-at-home fee."
In addition to ticketing, the newly introduced axs platform will also venture into other digital areas and content distribution. "Because [AEG owns and operates] a huge footprint of venues, we feel there's a natural mobile extension to the live event experience. So there would be a broad-base mobile platform," Sims says. "On the content side, there are tours, webcasts, live events and red carpet events -- those kind of things make for great programming. We feel like there's an opportunity there as well."
Additional reporting by Ray Waddell in Nashville