Laser Hair Removal—or Derek Jeter?

Groupon's big MLB deal is good news for battered tech firm, bad news for LivingSocial

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason's "the plane crash is much more interesting than the safe landing" comment yesterday probably didn't exactly help sales for his company's vacations product, Groupon Getaways. However, his Chicago-based firm Thursday (Nov. 29) seems to be enjoying a cleaner run with its events product, GrouponLive, after announcing it's the official digital deals platform for Major League Baseball.

MLB teams in the past have tested various deals providers, including Groupon competitor LivingSocial. Now, the ball clubs will seemingly go through Groupon only. Although, as Adweek spoke with Groupon on Thursday, it's unclear whether pro baseball's heavy hitters will still be restricted from playing the field.

"If the New York Yankees—who have their own set of dynamics with the league—want to [use another platform], that would probably be something the league would have to contend with," said Greg Rudin, vp of the 19-month-old GrouponLive. "But I can tell you right now that I would not expect teams to work with LivingSocial over the next couple of years."

In the case of the Yankees, the franchise ran deals on Groupon and LivingSocial during 2012. Neither LivingSocial nor MLB were available at press time.

Last season, Groupon partnered with a total of 19 MLB teams teams, separately. Technically, Groupon will work with Major League Baseball Advanced Media (Mlbam), the league's interactive arm, to facilitate the MLB partnership, offering discounts on the full price range of stadium seat offerings, as well as access to batting practice, luxury boxes and ballpark tours.

Rudin said the offers would begin appearing starting with spring training, which entails daily practice games in Arizona and Florida during February and March. While Groupon, which has roughly 30 million to 35 million active customers, doesn't break out how many are subscribed to GrouponLive, he said, "We are growing meaningfully as a business."

Justin Cener, CEO of sports-focused deals startup Crowd Seats, conceded that the MLB partnership was a win for competitor Groupon. "I think it gives their site more stature being associated with the nationally recognized [MLB] logo," he said. "It's going to be an acquisition tool."

In related news, questions have been swirling around Groupon for the last day or so about whether CEO Mason would be ousted by the company's board of directors. Yesterday, speaking at Business Insider's Ignition conference in New York, the 31-year-old executive made the aforementioned "plane crash" remark while addressing why his company received a lot of bad press. During that interview, Mason said he understood why his company's board was asking questions about his leadership but used the onstage appearance to declare his desire to continue as CEO.

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