NFL Moving to Digital Ticketing for 2018-19 Season

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The NFL’s days of paper ticketing may be numbered as the league moves to a digital platform from Ticketmaster.

According to a report from the Cleveland CBS affiliate, the NFL's move to an entirely digital ticketing platform next season is aimed at solving a couple of issues related to ticketing. “Our industry has fundamentally always been plagued by issues that are at the core of ticketing, which are anonymity and fraud,” said Justin Burleigh, Ticketmaster’s chief product officer for North America.

Burleigh explained that with traditional paper tickets, teams don’t really know who is in which seat, making it harder for teams to build relationships with their fans.

Paper tickets are also linked to fraud. “We’ve talked for a while over the last year about a case study at Orlando City’s soccer stadium, where they just went completely digital,” Burleigh said. “They went from about 120 cases of fraud per game to 0. They had no fraud for an entire season and for us, that’s one of the most important metrics of the shift.”

Ticketmaster’s Presence system will be installed at every NFL venue. Presence uses NFC or RFID technology, and there is a paper option if a fan doesn’t have a phone.

“We actually did build a paper instrument that we call a Ticketmaster ‘Smart Ticket,'” said Burleigh. “It’s about the size of a business card but it doesn’t have a barcode on it. It has an RFID chip in it. You have the same kind of tap-and-go experience you would have with your phone, like Apple Pay, but with a piece of paper instead.”

Ticketmaster says it doesn’t store any user data beyond seating information. “In the Presence platform, we don’t store any details about you. We store your section, your row, your seat, your token value, and then when a club wants to engage with you, they’ll go into their own customer database to engage with you,” said Burleigh. “We’re pretty tight with how we control access to the data and how we let the data follow on in that lifecycle. Security is absolutely top of mind for us.”

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