Shuberts Plan To Shutter BroadwayOffers.com By Thanksgiving 2014

Shubert Officially Replacing BroadwayOffers.com with TelechargeOffers.com

Shubert organization logo2014 has been a year fraught with poor decisions by the Shubert Organization when it comes to Broadway initiatives.  First, they launched the malfunctioning website TelechargeOffers.com to offer discount tickets to their telecharge.com ticket-buying audience. Now, the Shuberts are finishing the deed, announcing that they will be officially shutting down their original, much more functional discount ticketing site, BroadwayOffers.com, by Thanksgiving 2014. The original website broadwayoffers.com has been around since July 2001, and the Shuberts have already purchased the domain name space and brand up until July 2021. TelechargeOffers.com is the much newer, much buggier and significantly less popular site than its older sibling and is the website that is supposed to take over. It has been a bad start for TelechargeOffers.com, with less than 40% of users migrating to it. No stranger to monopolies, the Shuberts figured out that the way to increase the new site’s popularity and acceptance was to destroy its competition, and thus delete the original BroadwayOffers.com website completely. It seems that the Shubert’s often make choices that suit them the best, but cause chaos and confusion in the rest of the market.

The Shuberts Rhetoric Is To Play Nice – But Their Actions Indicate Otherwise

The Shuberts development choices in this matter effectively give users fewer choices, more problems, and a more complex process to buy Broadway tickets: the very opposite of what the Shuberts’ mission statement actually should be. It is the perfect example of an arrogant monopoly at work in the 21st century; Carlos Slim would be so proud.
Time after time, the Shuberts talk of slimming down the process of buying Broadway tickets, making it a simpler solution, improving the customer experience, improving the mobile buying experience and working with the industry to develop a better ticket buying model. The reality is that this is just rhetoric and the Shuberts are not only horrendously slow to adopt new ideas, but never make a move unless its clear that it will not affect their virtual monopoly on Broadway. It could be that that the strategist and the implementer at the Shubert Organization do not talk to one another, or they have an intermediary that puts the kibosh on good work. But the reality is, the Shubert Organization specializes in politics and this is just another example of its inner workings resulting in inaction.

The Shortcomings of TelechargeOffers.com

broadway offersThe Shuberts want to force all discount ticket sales through the beleaguered site TelechargeOffers.com, but the new website suffers from usability andtelecharge offers gray performance problems. One of its biggest failures is that It demands that users install the dreaded Microsoft Silverlight product that brings performance and security issues to users’ PCs. Users must install this software product just to be able to use the new website, which means that mobile users and non-PC users lose a great deal of functionality. Microsoft Silverlight is used to render the seating map, but it is not a mainstream product and thus requires most users to download an otherwise superfluous piece of software merely to see a graphic that many other much more common programs could easily offer. Furthermore, TelechargeOffers.com uses an ancient and complicated CAPTCHA system, which requires users to input annoying digits to proceed and prove they are not a robot or mass user ticket broker. In general, TelechargeOffers.com has serious issues with speed, functionality, and reliability, and thus the shutting of BroadwayOffers.com is a shame, if not a travesty.

Why Did The Shuberts Take This Negative Approach?Seating Chart for The Phantom of the Opera Tickets at the Majestic Theatre

The primary reason the Shuberts decided on this path forward is because they are trying to increase sales of full price Broadway tickets. For instance, when a discount code doesn’t work for a particular day, they are effectively forcing all their clients to see the alternative tickets available in the hope that they will buy tickets that are available. They also think they can do lots of Broadway ticket upsells. This idea wouldn’t be so bad if the new website wasn’t a complete disaster, but as it has so many technical and usability issues, the plan is both unfair and unwise. The Shuberts have had ample time to fix problems that were identified back in our July 4 2014 blog posting, which they have chosen to ignore. It is not quite clear who at the Shuberts have dropped the ball on this development, but David Andrews, Senior Vice President of Shubert Ticketing, Peter Entin, Vice President of Theatre Operations and Charles Flateman, Vice President of Marketing have failed in their duty to the Broadway industry.

The Shuberts Continue Their Strategy of Poor Consumer Experience

Charles Flateman at Shubert

Charles Flateman, the VP of Marketing for Shubert Ticketing (formerly of Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tours and co-founder of Broadway Inbound), true to his past form, had no comment for this story and refused interview requests, citing the Shuberts’ (non-existent) policy of not speaking to the press unless through a press release. Somewhat confused by the request, Mr Flateman erroneously referred all questions to Charlotte St. Martin, the Executive Director of The Broadway League.

Shubert Launches New Website TelechargeOffers

Telecharge Replaces The Website BroadwayOffers.com With TelechargeOffers.com

telecharge offers grayThe Shubert Organization, which owns the online ticketing site Telecharge.com monopoly, as well as a number of theatres on Broadway, has officially launched a new website: TelechargeOffers.com.  This new web site allows customers to process discount ticket offers through Telecharge Offers for Broadway shows when they are in possession of a discount code.  In the past, discount codes were processed on the old Telecharge offers website Broadwayoffers.com, which has been around for over ten years.  Presently, the homepage of the new site states that they are still working on adding offers to the site, and that some of the Broadway shows have partial information.  In the case that the site is not functioning for a particular offer, they suggest that the customer instead visit the original site, BroadwayOffers.com, while the transition in underway.

In Theory, A Higher Functionality For Buying Discount Broadway Tickets

This development is the brainchild of Charles Flateman, the VP of Marketing for Shubert Ticketing, who formerly worked for Gray Line New York Sightseeing Tours and is also a co-founder of Broadway Inbound.  One new benefit that Telechargeoffers.com brings is that it allows customers in possession of discount codes to see a seating availability map and choose their seats, rather than be forced to take the seats that the Telecharge system would provide to them automatically using the old system.  This graphical seat map functionality has already been used for regular priced tickets on Telecharge.com, but it is now available to customers buying discounted tickets as well. Also, the new website allows the client to set multiple dates in their ticket search. For example the ticket buyer can say “find me tickets on October 1 or October 15) which is a very powerful feature, especially given the tight schedules of locals and visitors alike.

Despite Positive Inroads, The New Site TelechargeOffers.com Fraught With Problems

It appears that although some of the new features and benefits of the new site are very promising, the system has been poorly designed and lacks the robust architecture that a successful IT project requires. Some of the issues seen are:

  • TelechargeOffers.com uses a complicated CAPTCHA system

    In an attempt to thwart ticket brokers and robots that try to game the system and buy large amounts of Broadway tickets. the new site uses a complicated CAPTCHA system.  This process can be very annoying to legitimate customers.  The Shubert’s have not yet graduated to the newer technologies that are less bothersome to legitimate customers and more reliably keep out scammers, ticket brokers and robots.

  • the Shubert’s insist on using microsoft Silverlight.

    The Shuberts, are well known for being an anti-Google and anti-Adobe house, still insist on using Microsoft’s Silverlight to render the graphical seat map instead or tried-and-trusted web methods using Adobe Flash, or better still, HTML 5. Microsoft Silverlight is not a mainstream product and is not installed on 99% of the world’s computers. The ticket buyer has to install a special add-in program just to be able to see the graphical ticket and seat map. Comparatively, Adobe’s Flash is installed on 70% of computers, both domestically and internationally.

  • Apple’s iPad and iPhone and Mac’s cannot use the graphical map at all

    Negating all value of the new website for those kind of mobile users, Microsoft’s Silverlight product is a dismal failure on all Apple products. In many cases it is explicitly banned from such platforms due to its poor security and cannot even be installed. This means that the most common tablet on the market, the Apple iPad, cannot use this new website for the very functionality that it was created for. Although basic functionality is achieved, this is not an improvement over what they had before with broadwayoffers.com.

  • The only computers that can use the full functionality of the new website are old-style PC’s.

    All Google devices and Apple devices are left in the cold..  Though newer devices can still use the new website, it provides poor functionality without a working graphical seat map.

  • Non-PC users cannot select multiple show dates

    For non-PC users, it is actually better to use the old website, BroadwayOffers.com as non-pc users of the new site cannot select multiple dates when selecting their choices for tickets, Unfortunately, The Shubert’s are expected to take the old site down shortly, leaving ticket buyers high and dry.This will clearly have a negative affect on ticket buyers, something that many industry professionals have indicated that may be Shuberts hidden agenda.

  • MORE PAGES – Multiple tabs replace a single page

    Rather than reduce the number pages a client has to work through to buy a ticket, the Shubert’s have increased the ticket buying process by adding three additional web pages to the process, further complicating the ticket purchase process for a customer, bringing the total number of pages that the client must navigate to ten. This is at odds with web best-practices of a maximum of three pages.

  • The new system faces other problems with Speed and Reliability

    Even when used on approved PC’s with the Silverlight application installed, the system is slow, prone to error on the CAPTCHA prompt, and has crashed many times during our transaction tests.

Shubert Detractors Pile On

Detractors insist that Shubert’s failure to provide a good quality website to process ticket sales is another prime example of the poor quality of service and lack of transparency that a monopoly provides when they are the only game in town. There are many calls for the control that Telecharge (owned by the Shuberts) and Ticketmaster (owned by Live Nation Entertainment) have over Broadway theatre to be broken up and passed out to competitive bidding and free market enterprise, where it is anticipated that quality, accountability and transparency would be increased exponentially. This industry has long been dominated by the Shuberts (for over one hundred years) and they are accused of damaging the industry by stifling innovation,  slow development and introduction of new technologies and continuing to operate a monopoly with all its negative traits. The recent addition of the new website TelechargeOffers.com is a very good case in point. Incidentally, the graphical seat map technologies that Ticketmaster have introduced for the Broadway theatres it controls are far superior to Shuberts dire attempt, even though the Shubert organization is supposed to know this industry far better than anyone else.

Shubert Refuses Comment

Charles Flateman, the VP of Marketing for Shubert Ticketing, declined to comment for this story citing Shubert’s policy of not commenting to the press, unless it’s through a press release.

‘The Book of Mormon’ Inks Deal with StubHub.com

The Book of Mormon now officially sells tickets on StubHub.com.

Since its opening in 2011, the Broadway production of The Book of Mormon has been selling out its houses at the 1,006 seat Eugene O’Neill Theatre.  With rampant demand for the satirical musical written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Avenue Q writer Bobby Lopez, the show has regularly seen premium ticket prices as high as $477.  The show’s lead producers Scott Rudin and Anne Garefino have often been at the cutting edge of strategies to maximum their ticket revenue, utilizing dynamic pricing to vary ticket prices throughout the house in line with demand.  As of just week ago, they have announced a new partnership that changes the game for the Broadway ticket marketplace: they will now sell tickets on StubHub.com.

Book of Mormon and Stubhub join forces

Book of Mormon and StubHub.com  join forces

StubHub.com, an online ticket marketplace owned by eBay, has grown from America’s largest secondary-market ticket marketplace to the world’s largest ticket marketplace.  The secondary market for tickets refers to when tickets are re-sold, often at a higher amount than their original price, especially when the primary ticket sellers have sold out their inventory.  Another example of a secondary-market ticket site is TicketsNow.com, which is an acquired subsidiary of Ticketmaster.  Ticketmaster often redirects its customers to TicketsNow.com when the original inventory is sold out, which is effectively the same thing as selling tickets at a higher price through the same outlet.  Critics of secondary market ticket sites consider them to be just another form of scalping, and thus the legality of such sites is often questioned.

In an unprecedented move for Broadway, The Book of Mormon has decided to utilize StubHub.com as another outlet to sell their higher priced premium tickets.  In this way, StubHub will not be functioning as a secondary ticket marketplace, but rather a primary ticketing outlet.  Presently, the primary ticketing outlet for Broadway shows is more often than not Telecharge.com, which is owned by the Shubert Organization, one of the major Broadway landlords.  Therefore, this decision will present StubHub as a direct competitor to Telecharge.

It is common for producers to turn to additional outlets to help move their inventory, yet this is generally done in the form of discount ticket sales.  When sales are slow for a certain show, producers will often offer lower priced tickets either by direct mail to potential ticket buyers’ homes, or through online promotions by email or on websites.  However, the decision to sell premium seats for this hot-ticket show specifically through StubHub is an interesting maneuver, especially as the StubHub customer base may not be accustomed to seeing theatre options on the site.  StubHub’s biggest business comes from the music and sports industries, and this will present a Broadway option to this largely untapped audience.  On the other hand, the advantage from StubHub’s point of view is that it will help shift their reputation from that of a glorified online scalper to a more legitimate ticket sales outlet.

In any case, this novel approach presents an interesting dilemma for the Shuberts, who own Telecharge.com.  If premium tickets can be sold directly though secondary outlets commonly known for scalping tickets, there is a grey area between the primary and secondary market ticket outlets that had not previously existed for the Broadway marketplace.  If they neglect the opportunity to invest in secondary outlets, like Ticketmaster did with TicketsNow, then they might very well be losing profits in the long run.  Still, for now, The Book of Mormon’s new partnership will be a noteworthy case study to see if the StubHub customer base opens up new avenues for premium Broadway ticket sales.

Buying Broadway Tickets on Telecharge.com Just Got A Little Easier With Their Graphical Search Tool

It’s been five years in the making, but searching for Broadway show tickets on Telecharge.com just got a little easier as they just launched their Beta version of their re-designed site, which we reviewed in a previous post on this blog.  The new version looks different, but more importantly, it works differently.  With the site’s new capabilities, particularly regarding ticket searches, Telecharge.com is finally catching up to Ticketmaster.com.  But they are still not there yet, as they lack functionality and utilize an awkward design that doesn’t appear to have been through adequate user testing yet.

Telecharge.com now utilizes a graphical map, a feature vastly preferred by users as a method for choosing seats when ordering Broadway tickets.  Telecharge’s new theater maps make it easier for customers to view seat availability for a performance, seeing exactly one the theater’s seating chart which seats are still available and enabling them to directly choose available seats from the map.

However, not all Broadway shows have opted to allow this feature.  Presumably stuck in the old way of doing things, they ask Telecharge to turn off the map selection feature, so that ticket buyers have to struggle through the traditional method of slogging through whatever ‘best available’ choices the computer offers them.  Although this ticket search offers detailed parameters for searching, you have to enter the captcha code each time you look at the next best set of seats, which can be time-consuming at best and aggravating at worst.

Even for the Broadway shows that do allow users to select seats via map, it can be difficult to actually notice the feature, since it is relatively hidden down at the bottom of the Find Tickets page and the user must deliberately select it (the default option is for Telecharge to “recommend” seats).  And if the Broadway show in question does not offer the feature, Telecharge simply eliminates the choice from the page rather than showing it as a “greyed out” option, confusing the user by making it seem as though the feature is never available at all.

Example of the Telecharge.com pesky default choice set to "Recommended"

Example of the Telecharge.com pesky default choice set to “Recommended”

Fortunately the majority of Broadway shows that sell tickets on Telecharge.com do actually choose to offer users the option of selecting seats from the theater map.  A current review of Broadway shows on Telecharge showed that the following plays and musicals support the graphical search:  The Anarchist, The Best Man, Chaplin, Chicago, Dead Accounts, An Enemy of the People, Glengarry Glen Ross, Grace, Mamma Mia, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Once, One Man Two Guvnors, The Performers, The Phantom of the Opera, Rebecca, Rock of Ages, Sister Act, War Horse, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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Broadway shows that do not currently support the graphical search function include:

The Book of Mormon, Bring It On: The Musical, Clybourne Park, The Heiress, and Jersey Boys.

Its unclear why these shows are hold-outs, but it could be that they are concerned that ticket brokers will use the new feature to game the system (a theory supported by the fact that two of Broadway’s most popular shows, The Book of Mormon and Jersey Boys, are among the few that don’t use the map search).There may also be a concern among Broadway producers that, because the map allows users to get a good sense of how ticket sales are going, potential ticket buyers may be less inclined to buy tickets for a show that has a lot of availability and therefore seems “unpopular”.  Broadway producers have always been rather cagey about declaring sales numbers, and the seat availability map lays bare the reality of sales numbers at a real-time pace.

It is anticipated that the Shuberts will fine tune the telecharge.com beta website over the next few weeks, with an apparent full launch date in the Fall of this year.

Shubert Organization Makes Big Changes To Their Online Broadway Ticket Website Telecharge.com

Telecharge.com, the Shubert Organization ticketing site that is the official Broadway show ticket vendor for over half of the shows on Broadway, has recently re-worked its website.  Currently in Beta testing, the new version of the Telecharge website is seen by 1 out of 5 people who visit Telecharge.com (or you can click the Beta test button).  Besides an overall re-branding (the primary color is now blue rather than white, for example), there are some key changes in terms of functionality and information offered.

The new Telecharge.com layout features more information on each Broadway show, from cast details to handicapped accessibility information.  This includes a schedule of upcoming show dates and times (and a “View Full Calendar” option) that is a much-needed improvement, making it easier for ticket buyers to see at a glance what show time will be best for them.  The comprehensive pricing breakdowns are shown by performance, enabling customers to more easily see which seats are available at what cost.

Shubert launches new telecharge website

The most significant improvement on the new Telecharge.com site is that it now allows users to search and select seats on a map.  This is helpful to Broadway ticket buyers because they are able to easily see where available seats are located in the theater and to choose their preferred seats accordingly.  Telecharge’s 3-D seat map gives you the option of looking at the theater from overhead or from a stage view — if you already have your tickets, you can even enter your section, row, and seat numbers to see exactly where the seats are located, although Microsoft Silverlight must be installed for this functionality to work. Telecharge has also included functionality to see a view of the stage from your seat before buying.  Not all the theatre data and photos have yet been loaded, but this function promises to be quite valuable to ticket buyers.

Overall, Telecharge’s seat finder is not as good as the one used on Ticketmaster.com, which handles the ticketing for most of the rest of the shows on Broadway. Though it will likely improve in time, at the moment Telecharge’s map has an unfinished look, is often slow to load, is not nearly as intuitive as Ticketmaster’s map, and in some cases lacks the flexibility of being able to see all the available seats on one screen.

The new website still does not allow the use of discount codes, they must be used on Telecharge’s other website, BroadwayOffers.com. The new site also requires Microsoft Silverlight to be installed, further limiting the penetration of their latest development, as Microsoft Silverlight has very limited user adoption and many documented problems with Google Chrome and Safari on the Mac. Similarly this functionality will not work on Apple’s iPad or iPhone.

On the whole, the new Telecharge website is an improvement because it presents Broadway ticket buyers with more detailed information on schedules, pricing and seating, along with a more complex search function. Nonetheless, it needs work in terms of smoothness of appearance, ease of use, and functionality.