Growth at Ticketmaster Comes From Personals As Ticket Sales Flatten
By CHRISTOPHER KEOUGH
If Ticketmaster has a date with success, it may not be in its core business.
Struggling to reach profitability, the L.A.-based event-ticketing company recently closed on the purchase of its second online dating business, gaining a foothold in a market that has shown growing promise.
Majority-owned by Barry Diller’s USA Networks Inc., Ticketmaster reported a net loss of $119.7 million (84 cents per diluted share) during the first quarter ended March 31, compared with a loss of $39.6 million (28 cents) for the like period a year ago. Revenues were $185.9 million, vs. $171.2 million.
But promising news came from the company’s Match.com personals business. In its most recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ticketmaster reported that Match.com had first quarter Ebitda (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $6.9 million, compared with $264,000 for the like period a year ago. Revenues were $25.3 million vs. $8.5 million a year ago.
To complement that success, Ticketmaster last month closed on its acquisition of Australian online personals group Soulmates Technology in a mostly stock deal worth $23 million.
Based in Sydney, Soulmates claims more than 2 million registered users in 25 countries with multilingual capability in 18 languages. Soulmates provides the personals service for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN.
Soulmates reported an Ebitda loss of $80,000 on revenues of $1.5 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2001, according to the company’s statement upon the acquisition announcement.
Ticketmaster officials said in the announcements they expect the deal to add $5 million in revenues and $2 million Ebitda on an annualized basis.
Between Match.com’s growth and the addition of Soulmates, Ticketmaster projects that revenues and adjusted Ebitda at its online personals business will beat earlier projections by 40 percent and 20 percent, respectively, at year end.
The growth in online dating comes as its core ticketing business has flattened. Tickets sold in the first quarter increased by 1.5 percent of the year-earlier quarter, while revenue per ticket increased by only.2 percent in the same period.
At the same time, the share of tickets sold online climbed to 37.8 percent, an increase over the 29.5 percent recorded the year-earlier.