Live Nation investors were either nonplussed or unmoved by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s political theatrics Tuesday (Jan. 24), probing the causes behind a disastrous ticket presale to Taylor Swift‘s Eras tour last November hosted on the company’s Ticketmaster platform. While Live Nation president and chief financial officer Joe Berchtold was being grilled by lawmakers about Ticketmaster’s technology and market power with a focus on monopolistic behavior, Live Nation’s share price rose as much as 2.3% to $77.71 before closing at $76.67, up 1.4% on the day, on about half of the average daily trading volume.
With that modest gain, Live Nation beat the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.3%), S&P 500 (-0.1%), Nasdaq composite (-0.3%) and Russell 2000 (-0.3%). It also outperformed two competitors, MSG Entertainment (+0.6%) and Germany’s CTS Eventim (-1.1%), that weren’t subjected to Congressional questioning.
Congressional oversight was already priced into Live Nation’s share price to a degree, though. Live Nation shares fell 7.8% to $66.21 on Nov. 18, 2022, after Sen. Amy Klobuchar, chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition, Antitrust and Consumer Rights, penned a letter to Ticketmaster about her concerns regarding its “system failures, increasing fees and complaints of conduct that violate the consent decree” under which Ticketmaster and Live Nation operate.
The hearing, titled “That’s the Ticket: Promoting Competition and Protecting Consumers in Live Entertainment,” turned Live Nation and Ticketmaster into punching bags for senators who, as Sen. Richard Blumenthal noted, were brought together “in an absolute, unified case.” The legislators’ pointed questions and obvious frustration on behalf of their constituents made it clear Ticketmaster is one of the more loathed companies in the U.S. One witness, Kathleen Bradish, vp for legal advocacy at the American Antitrust Institute, called Live Nation and Ticketmaster “a very traditional monopoly” with a dominant market position that results in higher fees to consumers and less innovation.
Exactly what will come from the hearing is far less certain. While there may be some appetite amongst the senators to undo the 2010 merger of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, or implement some other structural remedies, Sen. Klobuchar said the committee will wait for a Department of Justice report before moving forward.
Some senators proposed non-legislative measures. Sen. Joe Kennedy suggested the person in charge of the ticketing presale should be fired. Sen. Marsha Blackburn called the bot-related service outages “unbelievable” and told Berchtold that the company “ought to be able to get some good advice” for better dealing with these kinds of issues.
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