Ticketing giant Ticketmaster has purchased one of its largest competitors, Paciolan, in a deal set to shake up the ticketing industry. The purchase paves the way for Ticketmaster to enter the college-sports market and provide services to the 190 venues Paciolan currently contracts with.The acquisition also prolongs the dominance of Ticketmaster by removing one of the company’s best-known competitors, yet many key players in the deal have expressed optimism it might strengthen both Ticketmaster and Paciolan.In the short term, Paciolan will continue to operate as an independent company with most of its executives still in place and its headquarters remaining in Irvine, Calif., Ticketmaster announced in a press release. For most Paciolan customers, the acquisition will be a seamless transition with few short-term software changes or personnel shifts. Many of the box office managers contacted for this article said they’re anticipating little change.“Right now, I see nothing changing,” said Mike Carpenter of James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Va., which uses a Paciolan system and was notified hours before the announcement by his customer service representatives at Paciolan. “They assured us that everything will be business as usual.”Ticketmaster officials did not respond to questions about the deal by this article’s deadline. Officials with Paciolan also would not comment. In a prepared statement, Sean Moriarty, president and CEO of Ticketmaster said: “This transaction is about giving clients full access to the wide spectrum of solutions and services that both companies offer. Dave Butler [Paciolan president] and his team are true professionals who are dedicated to providing the best service possible to their clients.”The acquisition sets up some bigger questions about the future of the bigger players involved in the deal. Comcast-Spectacor was an investor in Paciolan and uses its system to power New Era Tickets for some venues managed by Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of Comcast, and for outside clients. Like all other investors, Comcast-Spectacor has sold its stake in Paciolan, but the company still plans to operate New Era tickets using a Paciolan-powered platform.“New Era Tickets will continue to support our business at the highest possible level. We will continue to deliver first-class ticketing technology and support service, and we firmly believe that Ticketmaster’s exciting announcement will only result in superior products and performance in the future,” said Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko. “With the new acquisition, New Era Tickets can offer our customers additional capabilities from the Ticketmaster family, such as TicketFast online ticket delivery, Ticket Auctions, TicketExchange and VIP packages.”Daren Libonati at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas said his facility’s long-term ticketing contract remains up in the air. Six years ago, the Thomas and Mack Center began working with Paciolan to power UNLVtickets, a system that eventually propelled Paciolan into bigger venues and helped create the technology for some of its larger clients including the Colorado Rockies, the New York Mets and the Ottawa Senators.“Ticketmaster purchasing Paciolan is really just a huge complement to what we, UNLVtickets, have established over the past five years. The negative comments and the naysayers all said it couldn't be done. In the end, UNLVtickets created a regional ticketing model that was the furthest thing from the typical third-party Ticketmaster model at the time and we tripled our annual earnings,” Libonati said.In recent years, Libonati said, more venues have begun to look at UNLVtickets as an alternative to Ticketmaster and ultimately that led to larger revenue percentages for the venues that eventually signed on to Ticketmaster.“I believe that every building in the country began to leverage Ticketmaster against UNLVticket’s in-house model,” he said. “Ticketmaster has been a leader in ticketing from day one. By them buying Paciolan, they are creating an insurance certificate to prevent or be a part of a ticketing future that is uniquely different then the third party model offered today. I don't believe Ticketmaster purchased Paciolan because their software was any more stylish or unique than their own.”Thomas and Mack currently has two years left on its ticketing contract with Paciolan, and then Libonati said his group plans to review its options and possibly move onto a new platform.“There are at least four other companies that are very capable of supporting a profitable ticketing model,” he said.Several ticketing companies are now vying to fill in the void left by the Paciolan purchase, even though in the short-term at least, the company will still be a player on the market.“The merger, like many other buyouts in this industry, reduces the number of choices for organizations to choose from,” said Jack Rubin of Tessitura Network in an email statement. “We plan to continue to grow with small, medium and large arts organizations and will leave it to the heavyweights to fight it out for the sports market.”Clyde Almy, senior vice president of Business Development for XOS technology, said he was also cautiously optimistic about the announcement.“It certainly is narrowing the marketplace and giving venues fewer choices. In theory, this should give XOS a higher presence in the market.”Unlike Paciolan however, XOS develops full-scale facility management software suites with ticketing making up only a fraction of the company’s core business. “If you look at what’s out there, only a handful of ticketing companies do exactly what Paciolan does, so any rush to fill their shoes is going to be limited by their own focus.” The options are going to make a big difference for venues like Ohio State University, which has a ticketing contract set to expire at the end of June 2008 and must soon begin putting its own contract out to bid.“It’s a big question right now for us and other venues that are seeing their ticketing contracts expire,” said Ticketing Director Bill Jones. “Ticketing contracts usually last five years, so many are wondering if Ticketmaster is going to run out their contracts and then stop signing new deals for Paciolan in five to 10 years after the contract expires. “Still Jones said, he was optimistic about the acquisition.“It would be very beneficial to everyone if they operated both systems under a parent umbrella,” he said. “It’s the perfect opportunity to take the best of both worlds and put them together.” The deal still needs to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission. The anti-trust review is necessary because under law any business transaction that affects consumers and is valued at more than $60 million requires approval from the agency.During the review process, the agency can sign off on it in less than 30 days, or let the 30-day period expire, in either case the acquisition would be allowed. In the event there are questions concerning the deal, the agency can request more information, which would extend the 30-day review period. Finally, the agency could sue to block the acquisition. — Dave BrooksInterviewed for this story: Mike Carpenter, (540) 568-3853; Peter Luukko, (215) 389-9530; Daren Libonati, (702) 895-3727; Clyde Almy, (770) 973-4383; Jack Rubin, (214) 265-1908; Bill Jones, (614) 292-2624