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Oxford outfit revolutionizing ticket management for college sports

OXFORD — When Ole Miss football fans head to the University of Mississippi’s Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field this fall, chances are they’ll be using an innovative ticket management system created by Oxford-based TicketsXchange (TXC).

The homegrown company recently inked a three-year deal with the University of Mississippi ticket office to exclusively handle ticket management and e-ticketing solutions for three key college sports: football, basketball and baseball. This fall, in the first full season of e-ticketing, nearly 20,000 Ole Miss season ticket holders have opted for e-cards.

“We’re taking the risk out of season ticket purchases by changing the ticket buying experience to ultimately empower fans to manage and use tickets in a way that makes their experience easier and better,” said John Spivey of TXC.

TXC replaces paper tickets for college sporting events with a branded, bar-coded e-card that fans can manage through a simple web browser.

Two years ago, Ole Miss graduate Steve McDavid, founder and CEO of TXC, came up with the e-ticketing idea and mentioned it to several Ole Miss buddies.

“Ole Miss Loyalty Foundation Club members said ‘we don’t know if it has any legs, Steve, but we’ll let you try it out,’” said Spivey. “Steve ran this whole program for a year based on paper tickets. It was a cumbersome, klutzy process, but the model was basically the same.”

University of Mississippi box-level ticket holders automatically receive free e-cards and the ticket management service as a one-year gift from the foundation. The school recently mandated students to use the TXC system, a move that will guarantee the company $5 per student, or close to $50,000 in management fees this year.

Until recently, McDavid funded the transaction-fee based company primarily from his pocketbook. Former Tritel chief Billy Mounger and former Wireless One founder Wirt Yerger were recently added to TicketXchange’s board of directors, and more than half of the company’s $600,000 capital fundraising goal has been met.

Last year, McDavid hired Spivey, former Vention CEO and fellow Ole Miss alum, to transfer the process to e-ticketing and to market the TXC package to colleges and universities, focusing solely on ticket management, not ticket creation.

“Steve sent me around the entire country to show the top 50 schools in Division I-A how TXC works,” said Spivey. “We were so used to people saying ‘this is a cool idea, but make sure it works at Ole Miss and then come see us’ that when Brian Broussard at LSU (Louisiana State University) said yes, we almost fell out of our seats. Because it’s a fairly new concept, many people couldn’t comprehend how much it would help reduce their costs and workload.”

TXC unveiled the new e-ticketing solution for LSU at the school’s spring football games in early April. More than 70% of attendees purchased TXC e-tickets over paper tickets.

With two SEC teams under contract, Spivey is negotiating with the SEC to market its entire ticketing system, and will also focus on colleges and universities in the Big 10 and Big 12 conferences. Together, these three conferences account for 75% of the collegiate sporting event attendance in the U.S., said Spivey.

“We’ve already talked to the SEC about doing e-tickets for football and basketball championship games,” he said. “Right now, for basketball playoffs, you have to buy a book of tickets and if your team loses, you end up with all these tickets you’re not going to use. The need to move these tickets quickly is imperative, and our system will be very effective.”

For regular season games, if a non-season ticket holder wants to purchase tickets, he can go online to the school’s Web site and click on game/ticket information. He will be routed to a web page with a graphical display of every stadium. Available seats are color-coded for easy reference. For example, Ole Miss football season tickets will be sold at face value, ranging from $112 to $217, depending on the location in the stadium, plus a nominal TXC transaction fee.

“Our system doesn’t allow scalping,” said Spivey. “Most states have scalping laws, but Tennessee doesn’t, so it’s perfectly legal to buy a $30 ticket for $200. We’ve been talking to UT, and everybody says this is a great solution to ease the scalping problem. We’ve also looked at ways to partner with legitimate, clean-cut services to offer a looser exchange on tickets, but decided not now.”

TXC recently negotiated with Seat Booker, a United Kingdom company, to license its e-ticket and management solutions in the U.K.

“We were looking for somebody with a graphical seat display tool,” said Spivey. “Nobody really had that, and we stumbled across the company in our research. They partnered with us and agreed to some co-marketing.”

TXC is also seeking sponsors for each school’s sporting event. The company would provide a logo on each e-ticket and e-card and on stadium signage. The company is mulling franchising the system to serve markets beyond athletics, said Spivey.

“For example, if all of a city’s events could be on one system, eliminating the overhead cost of venues needing the equipment, we could make a small percentage on each ticket sale and ease their whole ticket distribution process,” he said. (The Oxford Film Festival used TXC in June for online ticketing.)

Competition ranges from Ticketmaster, based in West Hollywood, Calif., to Houston-based Extremetix’s ClickNPrint Tickets, said Spivey.

“Schools have historically used Paciolan, based in Irvine, Calif., for their ticket office functions,” he said. “Paciolan has tried to evolve to selling on the Internet. We don’t care as much about selling the ticket on the front end, but rather managing it on the back end. We sell ourselves as an add-on benefit to the Paciolan service.”

The streamlined operation employs fewer than 10 people, said Spivey.

“The TXC system runs itself,” he said. “We train the ticket office personnel and the ticket office assumes responsibility to support the fans that use the system. When everything is implemented, our work is basically done.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.


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