DOJ Approves Ticketmaster and Live Nation Merger But With Some Stipulations
The Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, along with 17 state attorneys general, filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the proposed transaction. At the same time, the department and the states' Attorneys General filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns in the lawsuit. The state attorneys general offices are: Arizona; Arkansas; California; Florida; Illinois; Iowa; Louisiana; Massachusetts; Nebraska; Nevada; Ohio; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; Tennessee; Texas; and Wisconsin.
The Department of Justice cooperated closely with the Canadian Competition Bureau throughout the course of its investigation, and the two agencies worked together to obtain the same remedy that preserves competition in both the United States and Canada.
Under the proposed settlement, Ticketmaster must license ticket software and divest ticketing assets to two different companies—Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and either Comcast-Spectacor or another buyer suitable to the department, respectively—allowing both companies to compete head-to-head with Ticketmaster. Ticketmaster will also subject itself to court-ordered restrictions on its behavior.
"The Department of Justice's proposed remedy promotes robust competition for primary ticketing services and preserves incentives for competitors to innovate and discount, which will benefit consumers," said Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division. "The proposed settlement allows for strong competitors to Ticketmaster, allowing concert venues to have more and better choices for their ticketing needs, and provides for anti-retaliation provisions, which will keep the merged company in check."
As part of the proposed settlement, Ticketmaster must license a copy of its primary ticketing software to AEG, the nation's second-largest concert promoter and operator of some of the most important concert venues in the country. With a copy of the Ticketmaster software, AEG will be able to market a ticketing system that is an attractive choice to venues. AEG will have incentives similar to Live Nation to provide better services at lower prices. Within five years, AEG can purchase the Ticketmaster ticketing software, decide to create its own software, or partner with a ticketing company other than Ticketmaster. The department said that this remedy enhances short and long term competition in the primary ticketing market.
Ticketmaster must divest Paciolan Inc., a ticketing company that it currently owns, within 60 days to either Comcast-Spectacor, which has already signed a letter of intent to purchase the assets, or some other buyer suitable to the department. Comcast-Spectacor is a sports and entertainment company with management relationships with a number of concert venues and ticketing experience with its New Era Tickets company. Paciolan is used by hundreds of venues to sell tickets including major concert venues around the country. Venues that contract with Paciolan have greater flexibility to lower the ticket service fees that are charged to consumers who buy tickets. The department said that divesting Paciolan to Comcast-Spectacor, or another suitable buyer, in conjunction with the AEG license, will replace the competitive pressure on Ticketmaster lost as a result of the merger.
Under the settlement, the merged firm will be forbidden from retaliating against any venue owner that chooses to use another company's ticketing services or another company's promotional services, including restrictions on anticompetitive bundling. The merged firm must also allow any client that leaves and chooses to use another primary ticketing service to take a copy of the ticketing data related to that client's sales. The settlement also sets up firewalls that protect confidential and valuable competitor data by preventing the merged firm from using information gleaned from its ticketing business in its day-to-day operations of its promotions or artist management business. Additionally, the merged firm must provide notice of any other acquisitions of a ticketing company so that the department may investigate the competitive effect of such an acquisition.
Together, these remedies will preserve the competition that Ticketmaster faced from Live Nation, a new ticketing entrant, the department said. Prior to its proposed merger with Ticketmaster, Live Nation had established incentives to reduce service fees to sell more tickets. Today's settlement offers a new competitor comparable incentives to ensure ticket sales are maximized for the benefit of consumers, the department said.