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Window of opportunity for tickets

Busy phone lines and all-night camping may soon be a thing of the past in buying your favorite concert tickets. Today, Broadway theatergoers can start purchasing tickets online from Ticketmaster.

Busy phone lines and all-night camping may soon be a thing of the past in buying your favorite concert tickets. Today, Broadway theatergoers can start purchasing tickets online from Ticketmaster.

The company also plans to roll out a nationwide service that will allow anyone to buy tickets to any event in the nation by the end of the year, executives announced.

The company's strategy is a clear example of how the Internet is helping to redefine traditional distribution channels across many industries. Many analysts see a huge market in online ticket sales for concerts, sporting events, and theater, just as with airline tickets, hotels, and rental cars.

Ticketmaster, often accused of monopolizing the ticket market, originally launched its Web site as an information outlet detailing logistics on 20,000 events but quickly saw a money-making opportunity in the online ticketing industry. Competition, however, is mounting quickly.

So-called buy-and-sell ticket companies, which offer hard-to-find tickets, also are making a presence online in hopes of grabbing some of Ticketmaster's market share. For example, A Ticket for All and Concert Connection make high-demand tickets available, but don't sell them online. Instead, users must send email or call to buy tickets.

For now, Ticketmaster still dominates. Online services and localized content providers have approached Ticketmaster to provide its service to subscribers, but Ticketmaster wants to complete its rollout before it signs any deals.

Last month, Ticketmaster offered its services to Oregon and Washington consumers because they are Web-savvy communities, according to Alan Citron, Ticketmaster's senior vice president of new media. To date, the site is attracting "hundreds of ticket buyers a week," but Citron expects the number to grow as consumers feel increasingly comfortable purchasing tickets online.

The company has launched a service to address privacy concerns. For $10 a year, consumers who call Ticketmaster with their credit card and personal information will receive a pin number to use on the Web site. So far, 100 consumers have signed up for the ticket service.

"We expect the response to be strong because it adds a layer of security and makes buying a ticket a lot easier," Citron added.

But, there are a few hurdles that Ticketmaster must overcome, such as bandwidth. Tickets to popular events, like rock shows, will not be sold online during the first day because the system isn't equipped for the number of requests it would receive, said Citron. "We've been known to have as many as a million phone calls in the first half hour so what you've got to do is figure out how to handle even a portion of that volume online," he said.

Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, an investor in CNET: The Computer Network, is also a major investor in Ticketmaster.