2022 – the year hybrid events become sustainable
The events industry has seen a major shift in how it operates fuelled by the public’s growing demand to access performances in an instant via online broadcasting.
In response to COVID-19 there was a seismic shift in the online streaming space – with independent venues and event organisers taking control of their own broadcasting rights. Prior to the pandemic online broadcasting was predominantly the reserve of the major broadcasters as a way of expanding engagement of its content.
But the delivery of pay-per-view digital performances over the past two years as theatres, comedians, sports clubs and musicians adapted amid unprecedented circumstances has changed how audiences engage forever.
It has created the early shoots of a hybrid events era and while it is in its infancy 2022 could be the year combining physical and digital audiences becomes mainstream.
What is hybrid?
The concept of hybrid events still prompts confusion among organisers and ticket buyers.
Hybrid events are when organisers accommodate both physical and digital ticket buyers via pay-per-view live streaming or video on-demand. It’s a growing trend which has been backed by leading figures in the events sector.
By combining a digital audience with already established physical customers who attend venues in person, event organisers unlock a new world of potential. This includes:
- Engaging untapped audiences globally
- Adding a new revenue stream
- Capturing video to fuel the content engine
- Making performances accessible to everyone
In August 2020, Varanger Festival hosted Europe’s first ever hybrid festival to ensure it could continue to reach a large audience despite social restrictions.
André Kvernhaug, Varanger Festival Director, said: “Live streaming significantly expands our capacity and makes the concerts available to those who cannot or will not be able to physically attend.”
Why hybrid works
The temporary loss of physical audiences through most of 2020 meant organisers had no alternative but to use digital as an engagement tool.
This immediate shift from physical attendance to online viewing fuelled viewers’ demand for instant access to events, regardless of their location, health or ability to attend in person.
Swindon Wildcats ice hockey club were one of streaming’s early adopters.
The club hosted the first British ice hockey fixture after the pandemic via unrestricted pay-per-view live streaming where revenue from streaming pass holders compensated for empty grandstands.
Now, the club accommodates for all supporters by live streaming National League matches directly into fans’ living rooms.
Marketing Manager Keziah Farthing said: “It’s no secret that live streaming helped us survive the pandemic. Now, we’ve improved accessibility to home and away supporters by streaming all fixtures.
“The success of our matches behind closed doors helped fans buy into the idea of watching games at home. We have supporters tune in from all over the country, it’s been a huge learning curve for the club.”
Preparing for hybrid success
If you believe a successful hybrid event requires just a camera, internet connection and a product to film then you risk falling short.
A lot of organisations have successfully developed new audiences globally via hybrid, but others have struggled. We’ve identified some common themes which if handled well can help deliver successful hybrid events.
- User experience
Ticket buyers want everything under one roof. To make your customer journey as smooth as possible it’s important to promote your event, sell tickets and stream using one integrated platform.
- Easy access
Research has shown as much as 80% of streaming passes are sold in the hours leading up to an event. Because customers can buy tickets on the day – and continue to do so during the event – it’s essential they’re easily accessible.
A hybrid event is defined by its ability to generate revenue from physical and digital sales. Free-to-air platforms such as Facebook, Twitch and YouTube do not work, nor do providers where streaming keys can be shared.
You should always be prepared for viewers to encounter technical issues. Having a dedicated person to deal with enquiries instantly means your viewers’ live streaming experience will be as smooth and stress free as possible.
- Robust host
The last thing you need is to have a quality production that isn’t backed up by reliable and trustworthy technology. TicketCo’s live stream engine is hosted by Amazon’s AWS Elemental and Cloud Front services.
Broadcasting an event can be done via two ways:
- Using your own team and expertise
- Hiring a production firm to capture and stream
The first option is far more cost-effective with a basic streaming setup including a quality camera and laptop with a good central processing unit (CPU) costing in the region of £1,200.
But an event organiser can invest as much or as little as they wish into hardware and software to unlock the power of streaming. It’s why pay-per-view broadcasting works for organisers of all sizes.
Bacup Borough is a fourth-tier non-league football club which streamed matches through the pandemic to an online audience.
Media Officer Steven Brown said: “We charged £5 for a streaming ticket which we believe is good value for money. Our positives responses can be put down to good preparation, which is absolutely everything.
“If you want supporters to buy into your streaming model, test, test and test some more.”
Just The Tonic has championed digital comedy since the beginning of the pandemic through its Working From Home series broadcast via TicketCo.
Initially, streaming was used as an engagement tool. Now, Just The Tonic owner Darrell Martin hosts regular online comedy shows which combine content from physical performances at his Nottingham venue with acts exclusive to the company’s online production.
Darrell said: “Live streaming helped Just The Tonic pivot COVID-19. Broadcasting is now part of what we do and we’re starting to establish a regular online audience which has made the digital strand of our production financially viable.
“It takes time and patience, but we’re close to reaping the full rewards.”
In theory, hybrid was only created for the short-term – as it acted as an engagement tool that plugged a significant engagement and revenue gap in the events sector amid COVID-19 restrictions.
However, the reality is hybrid is here to stay forever. Hybrid not only provides audiences an alternative way to engage with events, but it also facilitates multiple new revenue streams for productions.
This is what makes hybrid events not only financially viable, but sustainable too.
Award-winning Technical Director and Digital Producer Simon Baker, of touring theatre company Wise Children, strongly believes in the power of hybrid and its ability to connect new and existing audiences.
He said: “Lockdowns taught us that live streaming works. The return of audiences to theatres and fans to sports stadia has confirmed hybrid is here to stay.
“Hybrid offers far greater access to the audience and breaks down attendance barriers such as travel, health or financial implications.”
TicketCo Media Services is the world’s only true hybrid events platform.
Our cloud-based technology combines event payments with pay-per-view live streaming and video on-demand functionality to make ticketing and broadcasting accessible and easy to use.
It means organisers can take control of their own HD quality broadcasts which can be streamed on Apple TV, Android TV, a smart TV plus phones and tablets.
In November 2021 our revolutionary platform scooped Best Sales Technology and Best Pivot from Physical to Virtual at the Event Technology Awards in London.
David Kenny, Vice President of Greenfield Sales, said: “A true hybrid events platform is one where organisers can conduct every aspect of their hybrid event without fragmentation.
“To us it’s clear, the future is hybrid. And 2022 will be a defining year for merging physical and digital audiences as more organisers understand the power of secure monetisation where new audiences can be engaged who generate previously untouched revenue.
“Hybrid has helped organisers pivot the pandemic, now it will help grow audiences and make performing arts, sport, comedy and music more accessible than ever.”
The definitive guide for theatres to live stream shows
The absolute best, most up-to-date, definitive guide for theatres to learn how to live stream theatre productions to their audience.