New Jersey’s Prudential Center is partnering with Madison Square Garden, signing a booking and marketing agreement with the Manhattan arena owned by James Dolan.
The agreement aligns the Newark venue — just across the river from New York — with Dolan, Irving Azoff and Tim Leiweke as the venue wars between Azoff MSG Entertainment and AEG continue to heat up. Earlier this year Billboard reported the two sides were duking it out over the Los Angeles market with AEG accusing Azoff and company of tying a play at MSG with a performance at The Forum (instead of Staples Center). In response, Azoff sent a letter to Billboard explaining that “premium MSG nights are going to loyal friends of the company” and that “Playing the Forum,” by extension makes you a friend of the company.
Last week, AEG fired back, announcing that it too would create a tying agreementas part of a new “coordinated booking strategy,” wherein acts that played The Forum (and skipped Staples Center) couldn’t play the O2 Arena in London.
While Los Angeles has certainly seen its share of competition, New York is also an uber-competitive battleground between the two companies with AEG making a number of strategic investments in the Big Apple including the purchase of Bowery Presents earlier this year and the acquisition of Manhattan’s Webster Hall with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, which operates the Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum.
The Prudential Center’s agreement essentially divides the greater New York market in two. The Prudential Center is also a member of the Oak View Group’s Arena Alliance, created by Leiweke and Azoff with nearly 30 arenas in the U.S. and Canada.
Scott O’Neil, Chief Executive Officer at Prudential Center, downplayed the rivalry between MSG and AEG, saying the deal would help his venue attract more shows and continue to build on the success of Prudential Center’s EVP of Programming Sean Saadeh and VP Brian Gale.
“We’re the Switzerland of arenas,” he tells Billboard. “We have relationships with Live Nation, AEG, OVG and now MSG.”
O’Neil previously served as President of Madison Square Garden four years and said his relationship with Azoff and Leiweke goes back years.
“This deal started with Andy Lustgarten who I used to work with at the league office,” he said. “He asked if we would be open to doing a different kind of deal and form a partnership.”
With three resident teams and a lot of concert traffic at Madison Square, there’s a limited opportunity for new concerts at the Manhattan venue. By working together, MSG can steer some traffic to Newark and create new opportunities for touring shows.
“If they have an overflow or an extra night to give on a tour, that provides an opportunity for us to work together effectively,” he said.
They’ll also share data and leverage marketing in both New Jersey and New York to attract and identify new customers.
“Philosophically we want to make sure we’re aligned with the titans of the industry,” O’Neil. “Ultimately this is a great deal for music fans in New Jersey and an opportunity to see if we can book more shows together.”