On the Money

Broadway tickets at the last minute, with just a swipe

Broadway bargains
Broadway bargains

Every night, an estimated 20 percent of all tickets to Broadway shows go unsold. Enter TodayTix, a new mobile application that's trying to fill those empty seats by selling more tickets to last-minute buyers.

Founded by two former Broadway producers, TodayTix lets you buy discount and full-price theater tickets from your phone.

According to The Broadway League, 40 percent of all theater tickets are purchased within a week of the show date, often through a variety of sellers. The new app is looking to get a slice of that hefty pie, and plans to go up against anyone selling seats on The Great White Way.

"We compete with anyone who sells a ticket," TodayTix Chairman and co-founder Brian Fenty told CNBC's "On The Money."

For decades, the TKTS booth in Times Square has been the place where theater-going bargain hunters and tourists stand in line for a chance at last-minute tickets. TodayTix, however, is trying to position itself to exploit some of the limits of TKTS.

"Unlike TKTS, we actually sell tickets up to a week in advance," says Merritt Baer, CEO and co-founder of TodayTix.

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'Big Broadway fans' offering big discounts

Baer and Fenty are both theater veterans who launched TodayTix in 2013. Thus far, they say they have 425,000 users and have raised $6.7 million in venture capital funding.

"Merritt and I were Broadway producers. We were also theater fans," Fenty said. "We waited in that line before, and it's an iconic institution. But TodayTix is really trying to be the 2015 version of that."

After downloading the free app, buyers can select seats up to an hour before the curtain rises. Baer says discounts are "in many cases up to 50 percent—30, 40, 50 percent for a lot of shows on Broadway."

Although a user can buy and pay for their tickets via phone, they can't always see the seat they're getting.

Fenty, however, told CNBC that's because of the "technology limitations of theaters in New York." He added: "We have a team that makes sure both algorithmically and using their professional expertise to make sure you're getting the best available seats at time of purchase."

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So how do they make money from discount tickets? "We charge a transparent $5 per ticket fee," says Fenty "no matter whether you're buying a discount ticket or a full-price ticket."

Despite the high-tech ticket discovery, buyers still need to retrieve them the traditional way.

"We have uniformed concierge agents that stand outside every single Broadway theater and then hand-deliver your tickets," Merritt Baer said.

TodayTix charges an additional $5 for concierge ticket delivery. Fenty said the firm hires "aspiring actors" who "wear bright red TodayTix T-shirts" to complete the transaction.

According to The Broadway League, more than 13 million people attended a Broadway show last season. While the average Broadway theater goer is 44 years old, Fenty said, "Our average buyer age is 32," reflecting the higher smartphone utilization rates among younger demographics.

The founders say TodayTix is growing geographically. "We launched in London earlier this month," Baer said, "and we're expanding to a handful of other great theatrical cities across America later this year."

In addition to New York and London, Fenty says they're planning on adding four more cities by the end of this year.

—"On the Money" airs on CNBC Sundays at 7:30 p.m., or check listings for air times in local markets.