Pulse: Chatter: All for Show

In ticket sales, the more things change, the more they stay the same. (Expensive)

To add to the list of life’s certainties: death, taxes … and concert ticket service fees. And while the taxes might ease up this year, seats for concerts and sports events aren’t getting any cheaper — a particularly bitter pill for Philadelphians to swallow, given the 2006 debut of Comcast-Spectacor ticketing service ComcastTix.
Billed as a consumer-friendly alternative to Ticketmaster — the seat-selling, fee-charging monolith dubbed “Ticketbastard,” and sued by Pearl Jam — ComcastTix has yet to offer much relief from exorbitant service charges or user-unfriendliness. Want to give up your seats for Disney on Ice at the Wachovia Center and search for cheaper ones? Instead of returning to the event page from your “shopping cart,” you’re forced back to the ComcastTix homepage to start from scratch. Other recent snafus included an incorrect seating chart for Celtic Thunder and a Flyers onsale delay. And then there are those fees: When the Daily News complained in 2006 about a $7.35 fee for a $13 Harlem Globetrotters ticket, a ComcastTix spokesman called the more-than-half markup “inadvertent.” But a $15 seat for next month’s Monster Jam truck rally still carries $8.60 in fees — hardly a bargain.

“We know there are things we can change,” says John Page, COO of Comcast-Spectacor’s arena management division, who says service fees are “an industry standard” due to venue overhead, credit card surcharges, and the costs of maintaining websites and call centers. “We feel very good about where we are, two years in.”

Don’t share Page’s optimism? Keep an eye on concert giant Live Nation, which launches its own ticket service this month. Locally, Live Nation Ticketing will handle sales for just three venues — TLA, Tower Theater and Susquehanna Bank Center. But with a new player on the scene, the door could open to a possible partnership between ComcastTix and Live Nation — and a potential battle royal between Comcast and Ticketmaster. Which begs the question: Who’s the loser in a fight between two behemoths? If history is to be believed, the answer is: the customers.