The Dallas Cowboys announced on Tuesday that they have opted out of the NFL’s deal with Ticketmaster and have elected to give their primary box office business to ticket reseller SeatGeek.
Terms were not disclosed. The Cowboys also have purchased an undisclosed stake in the company.
“We honestly thought we would continue with Ticketmaster,” said Chad Estis, the team’s executive vice president of business operations. “But we have a commitment to have the best in class and we thought that SeatGeek’s technology from a fan standpoint and the ease of use and flexibility on the back end with our folks internally made this deal the right one.”
The Cowboys aren’t the first team to opt out of the Ticketmaster deal. The Detroit Lions switched primary ticketing to Veritix for the 2013 season but will return to Ticketmaster for the 2018 season. The Cowboys and New Orleans Saints, who signed with SeatGeek in November, will be the only teams not currently part of the league deal.
The move is consistent with the history of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who famously struck deals with Pepsi and American Express in the 1990s, when the league had deals with Coca-Cola and Visa. The NFL sued but eventually dropped the case.
In 2002, Jones became only the owner to opt out of the NFL’s licensing deal, which split revenues equally. Jones felt that the Cowboys contributed a disproportionate share and sought to be rewarded by going on his own to distribute and choose where he wanted the Cowboys gear to be sold. Sixteen years later, the Cowboys are still the only team that does that.
“The financials had to be right, but we also have an owner who isn’t afraid to take a little risk,” Estis said of the SeatGeek decision. “We expect there could be a bump or two along the way.”
Estis said that being able to own a piece of the future business, instead of just being a customer, was also appealing.
SeatGeek’s move into primary ticketing was enabled through its $56 million acquisition last year of ticketing software company TopTix.
The majority of SeatGeek’s business is still the resale market, but the primary business has been growing.
The deal with the Cowboys gives the brand even more credibility.
“We’re thrilled that the Dallas Cowboys, the most valuable team in the world, has chosen us to be their partner,” said SeatGeek co-founder Russ D’Souza. “We think we have the best user experience for managing tickets.”
Cowboys fans will not be charged for transferring their tickets to other fans, unless they sell them on any one of three authenticated resale sites — Ticketmaster, StubHub or SeatGeek.
SeatGeek also was said to have won the Cowboys over by showing them how their ticketing software gives the team a better idea of who is actually sitting in the seat.
“The team has such a large fan base, it’s hard to know exactly who is showing up and who they should be talking to,” D’Souza said. “They will know now.”
Interestingly, Jones partners with Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster, in a venture with the New York Yankees on its Legends hospitality business. Estis is also an executive vice president with Legends.