I've Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway

I've seen the lights go out on Broadway.
I saw the Empire State laid low.
 -- Billy Joel, Miami 2017

Like way too many out-of-towners, I'm heading up to New York City for the Thanksgiving weekend. Unfortunately, my plans for fine dining, hectic shopping, and live theater have been partly derailed as the stagehand strike enters into its second week, effectively shutting down more than two dozen Broadway productions.

My Young Frankenstein tickets are still good. The same can't be said for The Farnsworth Invention.

Don't pity me, of course. I'll be fine. And don't expect me to chime in with a political opinion on the strike. Fellow Fool Nathan Alderman has already done so.

So why am I even bringing this up? Well, there are some investing implications here. This particular strike may not involve the breadth of public companies that stand to suffer if the screenwriters continue to picket out in Hollywood or if the news writers at CBS (NYSE: CBS  ) go on the strike that was authorized yesterday, but it will sting several companies.

Show producers and area restaurants are feeling the sting, but investors may not know that a prolonged strike can smack down Hollywood Media (Nasdaq: HOLL  ) shareholders, too. The company owns the Hollywood.com movie portal and a 26% stake in the MovieTickets.com multiplex ticketing site, but Broadway.com is its bread and butter. Broadway ticketing through the site now accounts for 89% of the company's revenues.

What's Broadway.com to do now that all but a handful of Broadway shows are dark?

"Strike-Free Zone," pitches the site's landing page, promoting the off-Broadway productions that have not been interrupted. It's the appropriate strategy, but tourists scrambling for refunds on canceled shows may be too incensed to care.

Things get a little hairier over at eBay's (Nasdaq: EBAY  ) StubHub. The site has pulled all of the listings -- no matter how far into the future -- for the 27 Broadway shows that have been shut down.

StubHub doesn't seem to address the issue beyond that on its site. Even its dedicated blog has been mum on the issue. The strike will still leave a mark. The company's generous refund policy provides buyers with full refunds, and that includes service fees and the pricey FedEx (NYSE: FDX  ) shipping charges. It's great for buyers, but not so great for StubHub. Most direct sellers are refusing to return what buyers paid in shipping on the now-canceled show tickets. StubHub will stomach the financial blow to keep the customer-friendly goodwill going.

IAC's (NYSE: IAC  ) Ticketmaster is another ticketing agent for Broadway shows. Like StubHub, it relies mostly on concert tours and professional sports to bring home the bacon. Unlike StubHub, it is a direct seller of face-value tickets. It doesn't have the hassle that StubHub faces in refunding premium-priced resale tickets (and likely going back to the original sellers).

So it's more than just area merchants that are feeling the pain. You can't go see Wicked this weekend? Stick around, in a few months you may catch it when Hollywood Media reports.


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