Ticketmaster Australia is part of Ticketmaster, the world’s largest event ticketing company. It provides ticketing, marketing, e-commerce and entry management solutions to stadiums, museums, theatres and performing arts venues. In Australia, customers can buy tickets to events through www.ticketmaster.com.au, 75 retail outlets and a contact centre.
In January 2010, Ticketmaster merged with Live Nation Entertainment to create one of the world’s leading live entertainment, e-commerce and ticketing companies. Live Nation comprises Ticketmaster, Live Nation Concerts, Front Line Management Group (an artist management company) and Live Nation Network (a provider of entertainment marketing solutions).
Around 80 per cent of Ticketmaster Australia’s sales are completed online. During peak times, such as the first day tickets for a major event go on sale, the company can sell more than 100,000 tickets in one day. This is a large volume of transactions for the payment gateway to support. “The single biggest issue was the speed at which the old system could authorise payments,” said Jim Kotsonis, Finance and Operations Director, Australia and New Zealand, Ticketmaster.
Ticketmaster’s previous gateway was connected to the company’s banking provider with an ageing copper wire infrastructure. As a result, whilst Ticketmaster’s ticketing system kept up with the speed of online sales, it could only get real time authorisation for a limited number of online transactions. The rest had to be processed after the fact, leaving Ticketmaster with a transaction backlog.
This backlog required manual processing and occasionally caused complications. For example, if a credit card expired or had exceeded its credit limit in the time it took Ticketmaster to process the sale, the company would have to contact the customer to ensure the funds were debited from the card.
Ticketmaster was intent on finding a payment gateway that could be integrated with its bespoke online system and could cope with the demands of its customers in real time.The company chose the Commonwealth Bank’s solution because it was simple to use and could match the transaction capacity of its website.
To address Ticketmaster’s needs, the Bank replaced the former banking provider’s copper wire infrastructure with a virtual private network (VPN). This allowed all payment data to be transferred directly to the Bank through a secure, high-speed online channel. To ensure maximum uptime, the Bank went beyond standard practice and created another VPN, hosted by a different telecommunications company, which connected directly to the Bank’s disaster recovery site. This allowed Ticketmaster to switch over to the secondary VPN and continue processing transactions in the event of any network disruption to its main payment gateway.
“As an online business, Ticketmaster cannot afford any prolonged outages or slowdowns,” said Kotsonis. “The two-VPN structure ensures our payment gateway is always available, providing our customers with a seamless, pain-free ticket-buying experience.”
Faster online processing
The new VPN-based payment gateway was developed and tested to comfortably manage Ticketmaster’s peak load of transactions. The gateway’s abilities were rigorously tested shortly after going live when Ticketmaster released a large number of season tickets for a popular outdoor cinema in Sydney. The company released the tickets at 9 am. By 9.07 am, the 15,000 tickets allocated for online sale had been snapped up. “Despite the huge demand, we processed the ticket sales quickly and efficiently,” said Kotsonis. “We estimate processing speed has improved by up to ten times compared to our previous infrastructure.”
The payment gateway’s performance was even more remarkable given it processed another large transaction simultaneously. Shortly before the cinema tickets went on sale, a football club that uses Ticketmaster for its annual membership purchased a large batch of tickets. The previous gateway would have been challenged under a double load, but with the Bank’s robust new system, it “barely registered as a blip on the radar”, according to Kotsonis.
“The outdoor cinema season is an example of an on-sale that our previous provider’s system would have found challenging whilst still having the ability to sell tickets to many other events, given the technology we were using with them,” said Kotsonis. “With the Bank, it was fine.”
Efficient merchant sales
Although almost all of Ticketmaster’s transactions happen online, around ten per cent of sales are made through hundreds of merchant terminals in stadiums and box offices around the country. As part of the new solution, Ticketmaster needed to process and reconcile all face-to-face sales on a daily basis. To address this, the Bank set up CommBiz Automated to receive and process all data associated with Ticketmaster’s offline transactions. The Bank also tailored CommBiz to produce daily reports for each Ticketmaster terminal, so that reconciliations can be managed easily and efficiently on a day-to-day basis.
“Getting daily settlements has made balancing and reconciliation easier and much more efficient,” said Kotsonis. “Our previousbank would settle a weekend’s worth of transactions in one go – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With the Commonwealth Bank, the money comes through separately at the end of each day. That saves us hours in reconciliation time every week.”
Addressing new card scheme standards
Around the time the new payment gateway was implemented, card schemes announced new standards that banned the hardware Ticketmaster uses to process offline transactions, which would come into effect on March 2013. Without the hardware, Ticketmaster was unable to automatically process refunds for offline purchases. If a concert was cancelled, customers that bought tickets from a venue would have to return to the point of sale to get their money back.
To address this issue, the Bank formulated a hybrid system that incorporated its terminals with Ticketmaster’s hardware so that it could continue to process automatic refunds for offline sales. The Bank also negotiated with the card schemes so that Ticketmaster could continue to refund normally until the new system was in place.