The Margin: ‘One of the most hated companies on earth’: John Oliver delivers a mighty takedown of Ticketmaster

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John Oliver’s epic rant about Ticketmaster has hit a chord.

On the most recent edition of his HBO show, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the British-born, American-based comedian and political commentator delivered a 20-minute takedown of Ticketmaster, the ticketing company that merged in 2010 with concert-industry giant Live Nation Entertainment to form Live Nation
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Oliver said Ticketmaster is “the biggest player in the ticket market by far” and at the same time, “one of the most hated companies on earth.”

As an aside, Oliver put that hatred into corporate context: “Remember, this is a planet in which AT&T
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also exists.”

Oliver broke down the many ways that Ticketmster infuriates ticket buyers. He pointed to the high service fees, citing a 2019 children’s concert in which the add-on charges equated to 75% of the ticket cost. He also explored how countless seats to concerts aren’t available to everyday buyers and go instead to brokers, who in turn raise the price of tickets — in some cases by sky-high amounts — on the secondary market.

The rant was delivered in Oliver’s usual style, blending comedic bits — he repeatedly showed a video of Justin Bieber falling down on stage — and supporting evidence. For example, Oliver referred to a Justice Department court filing over instances in which the department said Live Nation forced venues into using TicketMaster.   

Oliver’s takedowns can generate buzz, but this one seems to have particularly registered. Media outlets, especially those that cover the entertainment world, have chimed in — a headline to a HuffPost story declared, “John Oliver Exposes Why You Always Get Screwed Buying From Ticketmaster.”

On social media, many have also had choice things to say:

Officials with Ticketmaster didn’t immediately respond to a MarketWatch request for comment about Oliver’s segment.

In the end, Oliver said that a solution to the issues he addressed could include federal requirements that ticketing websites disclose their fees upfront. But he also said that the ticketing game could change if performers placed certain requirements on Ticketmaster, such as making sure seats to their shows aren’t so readily transferrable as a way to curb secondary-market abuses.

“Much of the power here is actually in the hands of the artists,” Oliver said.

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