IMPACT International UK/Euro: Brian Kabatznick

BRIAN KABATZNICK
Executive Vice President, Business Development and Facilities | OVG International

Brian Kabatznick is not one to dwell in the past. That’s easy when you have such a long list of things to look forward to. Professionally, that list also includes the construction of the first dedicated entertainment arena in Sao Paulo, which will “become the foundation of a new touring cycle in South America,” according to the man overseeing (VenuesNow’s parent company) Oak View Group’s international operations as executive vice president, business development and facilities.

The listing also includes the 23,500 capacity Co-op Live in Manchester, Europe’s first purpose-built music arena, scheduled to open in December 2023. He is “looking at new opportunities for venues in Asia,” to be announced shortly, as well as “buying two current arenas in Europe,” to be announced in the coming days.

Of all the areas that fall under Kabatznick’s responsibility, Europe stands out. While it has emerged from the pandemic with more events for sale than ever, much like the US, for example, the big difference is the war between Russia and Ukraine, which has led to a whole new set of economic challenges.

“The war weighs heavily on me, personally and professionally, especially as I am in charge of two of the Group’s international site developments,” said Kabatznick. “I had prayed for the war to come to an end soon, but going into winter and understanding the implications for Europe and globally in terms of energy costs is worrying.”

What will help offset some of those costs is the focus on alternative energy sources in all new OVG buildings, such as natural gas or the sun, reducing reliance on traditional energy sources. Kabatznick grew up outside New York in the 1970s, where he could choose from hundreds of events every day. It nurtured a love of live entertainment that has stayed with him.

He could talk for hours about memorable concert and sports moments, from the first time he saw Pink fly through a stadium (“the greatest visual in live entertainment”) to the visual arts of the current Coldplay tour to the tribute to Taylor Hawkins in the Wembley Stadium, to the breathtaking tennis matches between masters of the game such as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.

He is also one of the few individuals on Earth to witness all three of Prince’s landmark performances at LA Live’s Nokia Theater, Conga Room, and Club Nokia, all on March 28, 2009.

Kabatznick attended Fairfield University in Connecticut at the same time as the daughter of William Schmitt, then president of Ticketron, Ticketmaster’s predecessor. This connection landed him a job at Ticketron upon graduation, leading to a 22-year career at Ticketmaster US and Ticketmaster International in various capacities, including as executive vice president, international. Kabatznick recalls one of his first ticketing jobs, fresh out of college.

“I remember working the Eagles show at Giants Stadium, it was 1979 or 1980, and I just felt part of the company. Even though we were a seller, you just felt the interaction with the venue, with the promoter, with the fans. That took me from being a fan in the 70s to actually being in the industry and becoming an executive.

After a brief stint in theater production, Kabatznick entered the world of site development in the early 2000s and has never left. Since 2019, he oversees the international expansion and development of OVG’s facilities.

“This is the pinnacle of my career working for Tim (Leiweke) and Irving (Azoff) and enabling their vision at an international level,” he said. “Using the infrastructure and resources of our veteran executives to identify and analyze opportunities, as well as design and deploy brand new arenas around the world, is really exciting to me.”

The venue business is driven by naming rights and sponsorship, premium seating, and food and beverage. As Kabatznick explains, consumer habits make up all of those categories.

“Cryptocurrencies have taken on a lot of sponsorship in venues around the world. You have new technologies coming on board in terms of sponsorship and naming rights, and that’s exciting,” he said. “Second, first class seats. At Co-op live, we have 10 different VIP platforms with different prices and features. On the food and beverage side, we’re focused on rolling out our own platform, where we can control price, product and service. Part of sustainability is buying food locally. We believe that by creating a localized product with great value, product and service, we are truly providing arena fans with a food and beverage service they have not yet experienced in a major arena.”

It’s all part of giving fans a reason to go out.

“You have so many options when you just stay home,” Kabatznick said, “You can order, the food arrives in 30 minutes, and you can watch almost any movie that premieres online. For consumers, it’s easy to stay home Aside from a great sporting music or family event you have to give them a reason to go we’ve been through the pandemic this is the time of the next generation of great venues and great live events where I my children and grandchildren will enjoy for many years to come.

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