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Is a ruling pending on the Ticketmaster/Live Nation merger?

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UPDATED THURSDAY A.M.; SEE BELOW

The controversial merger of two of the least-consumer-friendly entertainment companies in America -- the giant national concert promoter Live Nation and the monopolistic ticket broker Ticketmaster -- was first announced last February, but it could not move forward until approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

As the months dragged on and Justice maintained a stony silence on its approval process, one could be lulled into thinking that the whole thing might just go away -- one possible good outcome from a very, very bad economy.

But no such luck.The merger was approved late last year in the U.K. And today comes rumblings from Wall Street that it may soon get the O.K. on these shores as well.

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones news wires are reporting that shares of both corporate giants "rose Wednesday on speculation that the companies' merger will be approved by the U.S. Justice Department as early as the end of the month."

The sourcing for this "speculation" seems very sketchy, however, and one activist group adamantly opposed to the merger came out railing in a press release and blaming Ticketmaster/Live Nation for spreading its own good rumors.

"This is just the latest attempt by Ticketmaster and Live Nation to convince the public and the Department of Justice to 'just trust us.' Anyone who has been ripped off by their outrageous fees and inferior service knows that Ticketmaster does not have consumers' best interests in mind," said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a founding member of the TicketDisaster.org coalition.

"Thousands of consumers, fifty Members of Congress, and a broad and growing coalition of public interest groups and live event industry representatives oppose this merger as an attempt by one behemoth to snap up its only significant rival in the ticketing market and extend its market power into every level of the live event industry. DOJ should block this merger outright, and we have every hope that they will do so."

One can question ticketdisaster.org's motives -- one of its spokespeople is a representative of the National Association of Ticket Brokers, a lobbying group for all the businesses in competition with Ticketmaster (including scalpers) -- but as a veteran reporter who's covered both of these companies since their origins, I find it hard to disagree with many of the criticisms ticketdisaster.org makes of Live Nation and Ticketmaster on its Web site, which is well worth a visit.

Ticketdisaster.org's full statement follows the jump. Meanwhile, no comment from Ticketmaster or Live Nation.

Oh, and for the latest evidence of how consumers are consistently mistreated by both of these companies, check out my colleague Mark Guarino's account of the unbelievable ticket snafu for the upcoming local Lady Gaga shows.

UPDATE, THURSDAY A.M.:

Business Week is citing four unnamed sources and reporting that the Justice Department is seeking concessions from Live Nation and Ticketmaster before approving the merger. According to the magazine, these include "licensing ticketing software to concert promoters that compete with Live Nation... Proposals that have been explored include licensing ticketing technology to Anschutz Entertainment Group's AEG Live, the second-largest concert promoter after Live Nation... The sale of ticketing contracts and licensing software to a company controlled by Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., the largest cable operator, also has been under consideration."

This fix still is oriented toward mega-corporations rather than providing any protections for the handful of smaller regional concert promoters still remaining in the U.S. and locked in a life-or-death struggle with Live Nation and Ticketmaster -- including Chicago--based Jam Productions, whose Jerry Mickelson testified against the merger last winter on Capitol Hill.

TicketDisaster.org Statement Correcting Reports on DOJ Action on Ticketmaster-Live Nation Merger

Washington, DC, January 6, 2010--In response to recent anonymous reports suggesting the imminent approval of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger, the public interest and live event industry members of the TicketDisaster.org coalition released the following statement to correct the record and give further reason why the merger should be blocked.

"This is just the latest attempt by Ticketmaster and Live Nation to convince the public and the Department of Justice to 'just trust us.' Anyone who has been ripped off by their outrageous fees and inferior service knows that Ticketmaster does not have consumers' best interests in mind," said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League, a founding member of the TicketDisaster.org coalition. "Thousands of consumers, fifty Members of Congress, and a broad and growing coalition of public interest groups and live event industry representatives oppose this merger as an attempt by one behemoth to snap up its only significant rival in the ticketing market and extend its market power into every level of the live event industry. DOJ should block this merger outright, and we have every hope that they will do so."

"The reports that the merger will be approved, like the premature reports of Mark Twain's death, are inaccurate and flawed, and are clearly timed to impact the shareholder vote on Friday," said David Balto, former Federal Trade Commission policy director and counsel to the consumer and industry groups. "Ticketmaster may wish that the competitive problems from this merger can be solved through a piecemeal divestiture, but they are wrong. It is not unusual for merging firms to try to rescue a stranded deal with some type of last-minute remedy, but history has shown that consumers are better off when the antitrust cops reject those desperate pleas and protect the interests of a fair and competitive market."

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About TicketDisaster.org

TicketDisaster.org is a coalition of public interest groups, ticket brokers, and independent venue owners and promoters united in opposition to the proposed Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger. Coalition members include the American Antitrust Institute, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, I.M.P. Productions Chairman Seth Hurwitz (representing independent venue owners), the National Association of Ticket Brokers, the National Consumers League and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG).

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3 Comments

You have to applaud any press release that references the reports of Mark Twain's death. I bet it took him all day to write it, what with having to continually dip the plume back in the ink well...

I would love to know how we the music fans and the concert goers can stop this. Maybe if the merger goes through we do not go to concerts anymore, but that won't happen.

This type of merger really affects the small businesses trying to get a foot in the ticketing market. We need to support fair ticket sales and management solutions like HoldMyTicket com!

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This page contains a single entry by Jim DeRogatis published on January 7, 2010 1:00 AM.

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