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Sparkart: How A Digital Agency Helped Redbox Get Into The Ticketing Business

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Earlier this month, Redbox announced that it’s going to start selling live event tickets from its ubiquitous red kiosks. That seemed like a smart move for Redbox, which is best-known as a DVD rental service, but it turns out the idea actually came from outside — specifically from Naveen Jain, CEO of digital agency Sparkart.

Jain says the idea came to him when he was on a plane to Chicago, where Janet Jackson and Bon Jovi were both having concerts. (They’re both clients of Sparkart, which is also getting into the product business with a website builder called Storyteller.) He ended up sitting next to a Redbox engineer, and they struck up a conversation about the company’s business. Near the end of that conversation, Jain asked the important question: Had Redbox ever thought of going into the ticketing business?

After all, Jain knew (through his work with musicians at Sparkart) that 40 percent of LiveNation tickets go unsold, often because people just didn’t know about the event. At the same time, he argues that when someone goes to a Redbox kiosk, what they’re looking for is entertainment, which is a lot broader than movies. So it seemed like a natural fit to help people discover local events.

I suspect that many of us have moments of inspiration like this too, but we rarely act on them. Jain, on the other hand, actually set up a meeting at Redbox with Mark Achler, its senior vice president of new business, innovation, and strategy. That meeting led to a partnership between Redbox and Sparkart, with the agency offering business development, technical consulting, and design.

Achler tells me that the possibility of selling tickets may have been discussed within Redbox before, but over the course of a year, Redbox worked with Jain to transform it from a random thought into a real product.

“Naveen got our wheels turning,” Achler says. “We really think our customers find and discover great movies and games with us, and we wondered if we can do that same thing with live entertainment.”

Right now, the program is being piloted in Philadelphia, where customers will be able to buy tickets to the Philadelphia Film Festival, NASCAR’s Pocono Raceway, and more. Next, it plans to expand to Los Angeles and, eventually, to roll the service out nationally. (Redbox says it currently operates 38,500 kiosks across the country.) The company is working with partners on a national, local, and neighborhood level to offer tickets for a wide range of events, Achler says — and for all of those tickets, they’ll only need to pay a convenience fee of $1.

“What I love about the Redbox vision for this business, is it’s more than just concert tickets,” Jain says. “It could be tickets to the zoo, it could be the local sporting event, it could be tickets to a museum.”

Achler adds that he doesn’t want to take business away from the existing ticketing industry, but instead to help them “grow the pie.” He also suggests this is part of a broader effort by Redbox to expand its business, as evidenced by the relatively recent addition of video game rentals and its partnership with Verizon to launch a streaming Netflix competitor.