Greg Foster, CEO, Experience

Experience, an Atlanta-based company that provides seat-upgrades and once-in-a-lifetime experiences to fans and successfully pioneered the concept of the ‘subscription model’ has reinvented the ways teams and venues look at ticketing. Experience has been in place for five years and was bought by Cox Communications in 2014. Greg Foster, the CEO of Experience, spoke with Venues Today about how the company has transformed the industry on the back of the mobile revolution.

What exactly does Experience do?

We’re a technology that provides for a team, venue or anyone doing a live event to allow their patrons to enhance their experience at the venue by upgrading their seats. We provide the ability for the patron to get a memory or an experience at the game and make it possible for a fan to buy packages and tickets in new ways that conform to their lifestyle.

Can you explain your latest product INWEGO?

Our INWEGO product is the next evolution in subcription ticketing. It’s a product that’s targeted to young people who may never even have heard of a team or event. Think of it like buying a Netflix subscription. You pay the same price each month and then you can select from a whole list of events and can go to as many as they want to go to. The fan gets access to a ton of events across all kinds of sports. We’re looking at adding music choices into the package as well.

Explain your PASS, PASS SELECT and PASS ONE products and how they are different from a season ticket package.

With our PASS product, the fan buys a block of tickets that can be used during a block of time. For instance, the fan purchases 10 tickets and the team predetermines those tickets can be used at any games from April to June. This is different from a traditional season ticket package because the fan is not buying the whole season, just parts of it. It’s very flexible. PASS SELECT is like a voucher system where the fans buy a block of tickets but then they can select the games they want to come to. If they buy 20 vouchers, they can take 10 friends to two games or take themselves and a partner to 10 games. PASS ONE is for last-minute tickets. This product separates the barcode from the seat so the fan knows they have a ticket but do not know what seat they will get till they show up at the stadium. This is a game-changer. This optimizes revenue and fills the venue. The significant part of all the PASS products is that it fills up the team's database with people who are interested in coming but don’t want to buy season tickets. The teams can market to them and it’s worked really well for the teams.

How is it going with these new ticketing models?

From 2015 to 2016, adoption of PASS technology has been tremendous. We went from 46 properties in 2015 using PASS technology, to 106 in 2016. This represents 130% growth over the past year in the number of properties adopting Experience PASS technology.

Tell us about seat upgrades using Experience.

We make it very easy and available to anyone. If a fan bought general-admission tickets to a concert or bought bleacher seats for a baseball game but the sun was beating down, the fan can go right on the app, easily find seats in the shade, and upgrade. If they want to go sit on the 50-yard line, we can move them there.

How many people then use applications to purchase a seat upgrade?

Roughly a quarter of the people using our PASS products convert to a better seat.

Let’s talk about memories and experiences. Can you give us some examples?

If you want the mascot to come to your seat and take a picture with you and your kids, we can provide that. If you want to go onto the field and watch the coin toss, we can make that happen. If you want to watch the players enter the field up close, we can arrange that.

How does it work?

We’re a 100-percent mobile company and we integrate into the team (or venue) app. That makes it possible to be really agnostic in respect to whatever the team has in place for ticketing.

Who are your partners?

We have nearly every National Basketball Association (NBA) team using the application; nearly every Major League Baseball (MLB) team using the application; nearly every National Hockey League (NHL) team using the application and probably half the National Football League (NFL) teams use it. There were some white whales we wanted to get on board and we’ve signed over 50 new clients since my arrival, including Denver Broncos; Colorado Rockies; St. Louis Cardinals; New York Knicks; New York Rangers; Dallas Mavericks; San Jose Sharks and New England Revolution. We’ve also added the Tiger Woods Foundation and a dozen of the Power Five conferences to our roster. We have great relationships with Live Nation and with Feld Entertainment.

Do you make your deal with the venue or with the team/content provider?

Mostly the teams, but some deals may be more exotic like Madison Square Garden (MSG), where we have a relationship with MSG, plus the teams that play there. There are entities where we have deals, but in every one of those we have separate negotiations with teams that play in it.

Who decides what types of experiences you will offer at various venues?

The teams decide. There’s no limit, whatever the team wants to do is possible. If the Atlanta Falcons want to make it possible for a fan to come down on the field and hang out with Arthur Blank, we can do that. If they want to create a memory for a Seattle Seahawk fan to come down and watch the trainer catch balls with the player, we can do that. All we need to know is what is the experience, what is the price and we load it into our system and the fan can buy it.

Who determines the pricing of experiences?

Typically it’s a conversation because often the team doesn’t know how to price it. With many of the experiences we help guide the teams since we’ve had experience with it. We get it right 90 percent of the time.

What is the price range for experiences?

It’s all over the board. Getting the mascot to your seat can run anywhere from $50-$150. Getting down on the field can run $500-$1,000. But keep in mind that while the memories and experiences are a nice touch, they do not drive our revenue. Our PASS products and seat upgrades are the most substantial parts of our business.

What ticketing companies can you work with?

We have relationships with all the major ticketing companies like Spectra, Ticketmaster, Tickets.com and many others. There are a handful of ticketing companies we don’t work with due to technology integration issues.

How does the revenue split work?

We do a revenue share so no one is out-of-pocket. There are different revenue shares with different teams. Across the board the teams get more than 50 percent.

How long have you been with the company?

I’ve been here about a year. Before coming to Experience I owned a business called BrightWhistle, which was sold to Silver Lake Partners. I was semi-retired when Experience came calling.

What were your goals when you came aboard?

We’ve only scratched the surface of the problems Experience can solve. So far, the revenue increases we’ve been able to achieve are incremental. I believe we can achieve substantial increases. You can always scale a business much more quickly when you are building substantial value for your partners.

How many people work at Experience?

About 70. Almost half are on the technical side of the operation.

Could Experience exist without mobile technology?

No. Everything we do starts and ends with mobile technology. We can fill seats and once the fan is in-venue, the app allows the teams to get people aware of all the things they can do once they are there. We couldn’t do any of this without mobile.