In the latest in our series of interviews looking at how the pandemic has impacted companies in the events industry supply chain, TicketCo co-founder Carl-Erik Michalsen Moberg tells Access how he successfully rescued his digital ticketing operation from being destroyed by Covid-19.
After it was founded in Norway in 2012, TicketCo expanded swiftly and its UK operation was launched in 2018. Providing mobile-first ticketing for events, festivals and sports clubs, TicketCo was in good shape until Covid-19 knocked it for six.Rather than turn the lights out and hand his staff their P45s, Moberg and his team set up TicketCo Media Services – a pay-per-view live streaming and video-on-demand service built into a payments platform that had previously processed millions of orders.An online broadcasting service that can be used on all devices, and sits on top of a digital ticket platform, TicketCo Media Services has proven popular with events operators. It’s many streamed shows include The Nutcracker performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Southbank Centre – Inside Out events series and Chilly Gonzales at The Royal Albert Hall.
How deeply did the Covid-19 crisis impact your business?
We launched in Norway in 2012 and the company grew quickly. Pre-Covid we had around 2,800 event organisers in our portfolio, we are big in festivals and sports – we have deals with all the football clubs in Norway. We were growing by about 50% each year but then in March 2020 everything turned black. We had around 3,000 event cancellations in the first week that Covid broke and we had to rethink what we were doing.

When the lights went off in March we had two choices; one was to try and reinvent ourselves and the company and the other was to make people redundant. We saw that the audience was still out there and people were investing in big TVs and stereos, they were at home more than ever before.

The streaming sector has exploded in the past year how did you launch the business and make an impact in such a saturated market?

Having built TicketCo was a great advantage because we were cloud based from day one, we were mobile friendly and we built the system with Amazon Web Services. Amazon has a very strong toolbox that is built into TicketCo. When we approached Amazon from a different angle we saw that there were so many bits and pieces on the platform that could be built into TicketCo Media Services. All of a sudden, we had the opportunity to use the same systems as Netflix to build a live streaming platform; that was a huge eyeopener for us. With our experience in e-commerce, we were able to build the platform. We don’t do the production for the organisers but we provide the whole customer journey with a paywall on top of a very robust streaming system.

Clearly the coronavirus situation has encouraged event operators to look at streaming but do you think there are any other factors behind its rapid rise?

The equipment that you can get now is cheaper than it’s ever been and the technology to provide a great live streaming experience is out in the market. So the whole live streaming opportunity for event organisers is democratised; it’s very easy to get started and that was not the case 10 years ago. It’s perfect timing for event organisers to jump on this opportunity.

“I don’t think we’ll see any major physical-only events again.”

What patterns are you seeing in terms of the demand for live-streamed live performances versus  pre-recorded events?

Feedback shows that the audience loves live streaming, there is also interested in video-on-demand but sitting there being in the moment and getting a close look at the artist – that is basically the ultimate experience for the audience – so far live streaming is the favourite. We see the willingness to pay is pretty similar for both. With video-on-demand you have the convenience of watching it within 48 hours or 24 hours so you can sit down at your own convenience and that has a value. There are pros and cons with both, but we see that the live streamed shows are the best sellers on our platform.

The industry has show great ability in grasping this opportunity and running with it. Looking ahead do you think live streaming will continue to play a key role and we will we see the rise of hybrid live performance shows?

A lot of organisers are asking themselves that question and if they had the bulletproof answer they would definitely invest in streaming straight away. I think that there will be no purely digital events in the future when there’s no Covid. The digital experience has to be merged into that live event to make the whole live stream event experience better and the physical experience better. Then again, I don’t think we’ll see any major physical-only events again. The organisers who can merge the digital into the physical will be the winners in the event industry, not least because there might be another pandemic. Organisers who are able to innovate now will be much more resilient in the future.