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Vivid Seats inks deal to become official ticket provider on ESPN’s digital platforms

ESPN has decided to partner with online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats in a deal that unseats rival Stubhub as official ticket partner across digital platforms, providing the media outlet’s consumers with seamlessly integrated branding, links and promotions.

The move comes at a time of intense turmoil within the already-contentious online ticketing sector — to put it into perspective, just earlier this week, rival Ticketmaster was accused in court of hacking into competing company Crowdsurge’s databases to steal their client lists. Vivid’s partnership is markedly more kosher, but it is yet to be determined whether even a presence on a high-profile media outlet will create a dent in the online ticketing duopoly.

“The integration gives Vivid Seats access to a massive audience of sports fans,” said Amy Phillips, an ESPN spokesperson. “ESPN accounted for 29 percent of all sports usage across digital platforms – more than the Nos. 2 and 3 sports properties combined.”

ESPN and Vivid Seats
ESPN will join Vivid Seats’ list of more than 50 ticketing relationships across sports and entertainment, including industry leaders such as the Chicago Bears, the Big Ten Conference, Notre Dame and the Pac-12 Conference.

Confirmed sales through ESPN will be backed by the Vivid Seats Buyer Guarantee, ensuring authentic tickets to fans or their money back. Rival ticketing companies have also introduced similar guarantees, which are increasingly becoming a necessity with the rise of grey market transactions sanctioned by ticket marketplaces.

Vivid Seats could not have chosen a better partner to tout its sports tickets, which provide a significant amount of its yearly revenue: In 2016, no digital sports brand in the world reached a greater number of global sports fans than ESPN, which is in the midst of a smooth transition of resources to digital under the aegis of parent company The Walt Disney Company.

Throughout the year, ESPN remained No. 1 in the digital sports category for average minute audience, total minutes and total visits, with an average of more than 110 million unique users per month, peaking at 136 million in September.

Mobile Ticketing
Rival ticketing marketplaces are also choosing to expand through partnerships, but instead of allying with media outlets, larger competitors are choosing to go straight to the source. StubHub recently rolled out its latest effort in collaboration with the National Basketball Association’s Philadelphia 76ers, integrating primary and secondary ticket sales into a mobile hub for all Sixers ticket transactions including services unavailable in traditional grey market arenas (see story).

And Ticketmaster found a way to fight fraud through a mobile ticketing integration via its partnership with the Dallas Cowboys (see story).

“Having a mobile presence is increasingly important as mobile devices are ubiquitous and fans are used to being able to access what they want, when they want it,” Ms. Phillips said. “This agreement with ESPN puts Vivid Seats inventory at the fingertips of fans accessing ESPN digital properties from any device they are using – including mobile.”