Five UK theatre companies that went global via live streaming
UK theatre’s ability to engage with audiences on a global scale has never been more prevalent.
Around the world, theatregoers are enjoying new plays and musicals from the comfort of their homes via HD quality pay-per-view live streaming and on-demand. Online streaming for UK theatres is a reasonably new concept that was accelerated by COVID-19 restrictions.
Online broadcasting has provided a robust, reliable and secure platform for theatres to monetise performances and engagement figures point towards a hybrid future. Digital theatre is inclusive – it can be accessed by everyone – and breaks down barriers that prevented people from engaging with theatre before the pandemic.
Here we highlight the innovation of five UK-based theatres and touring theatre organisations that championed online broadcasting with TicketCo Media Services.
1. Wise Children, Bristol
In March 2020, Bristol-based Wise Children were about to break new ground by taking the critically acclaimed Romantics Anonymous on tour to the USA.
But before the American dream had started, it was over. Founder Emma Rice postponed the tour moments before lockdown was confirmed. Amid an easing of restrictions, Wise Children partnered with TicketCo Media Services to stream five live performances of Romantics Anonymous from Bristol’s Old Vic. The results were out of this world.
Five sell-out shows at Bristol Old Vic equates to 2,700 ticket sales. But through live streaming’s limitless capacity, Wise Children were able to sell 11,000 streaming passes to an estimated 27,000 viewers.
The extraordinary explosion in viewers also followed during performances of The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk in November.
Simon Baker, Technical Director at Wise Children, said: “We now know there is an audience beyond the auditorium. By streaming our productions, it enables a whole range of people that wouldn’t normally attend live theatre to be able to watch our shows.”
2. Umbrella Rooms, London
The Umbrella Rooms’ online broadcast of Mischief Movie Night In, delivered in partnership with Kenny Wax Ltd, Stage Presence Ltd and Mischief Theatre Ltd was watched in 70 countries by 190,000 people. The show, which has audience engagement at its heart, was broadcast online without a single technical hitch.
The improvised show puts viewers in charge of the action, allowing them to suggest the genre, location and even title of the film they want to watch. Actors then instantly deliver a full performance on the spot. Everything is 100% improvised.
Due to the show’s reliance on audience engagement, there was no margin for error and viewers across the world had to be connected in real-time. Partnering with TicketCo Media Services made this possible as viewers tuned in from Alaska, Israel, Australia and the USA.
Nathan Amzi, Director of The Umbrella Rooms, said: “We received no reports of dropouts or lag that could not be resolved, it was absolutely amazing. TicketCo was a system that worked and could handle large volumes of people on a global scale without issues.”
3. Birmingham Royal Ballet
Since its formation in the 1940s, Birmingham Royal Ballet has been wowing audiences with its highly technical and jaw-dropping dance routines.
The closure of all UK theatres and strict COVID-19 guidelines meant for the first time in its history, Birmingham Royal Ballet faced a baron spell. However, it embraced the only theatre that was open: the internet and its audience embraced it.
Initially it used free channels such as Facebook and YouTube, but it did not provide a financially viable long-term solution. That is when Birmingham Royal Ballet turned to TicketCo Media Services.
For many of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s foreign dancers, live streaming meant families across the world were able to tune in and watch their relatives perform on-stage for the first time.
“Losing Christmas would have been crippling,” explained Paul James, Chief Commercial Officer at Birmingham Royal Ballet.
“We simply had to find a solution and ensure this year’s Nutcracker could ahead in any capacity. I asked myself a question: ‘Could my mother do it?’ If my mother could get TicketCo’s technology to work in her home, then anyone can – and she did it.”
4. Blackeyed Theatre, Bracknell
Blackeyed Theatre, one of the UK’s leading touring theatre firms, had never explored pay-per-view live streaming before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its global tour of Jane Eyre still had 13 weeks remaining – including a month in China – when the UK was first placed into lockdown in March 2020. Artistic Director Adrian McDougall knew then he would have to shift the core focus of Blackeyed Theatre’s business online.
In the summer, a successful broadcast of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde convinced Blackeyed Theatre to resume their tour of Jane Eyre. However, this time, performances would be delivered digitally and to a global audience.
“Broadcasting our shows was not an issue, but monetising our performances was,” said Adrian. “The pandemic has made theatre far more accessible by bringing it directly into people’s homes. Live streaming has not only opened up fresh revenue streams, but also taken away those barriers that some people face with regards to attending theatre. By partnering with TicketCo TV, we have been able to grow our audience beyond the auditorium.”
5. Bush Theatre, London
Bush Theatre joined the online broadcasting revolution in January 2021 and streamed behind-closed-doors productions globally.
Overflow is a hilarious and devastating tour of women’s bathrooms from the perspective of a trans woman. To provide its audience with the full streaming experience, Bush Theatre broadcast live seven performances of the show via TicketCo Media Services. It was roaring success with the shows enjoyed in 25 different countries.
Sales from the seven digital shows was comparable to a five-week continuous run of performances in Bush Theatre’s own venue – quintupling the volume of ticket sales.
Beatrice Burrows, Head of Marketing at Bush Theatre, said: “Transgender representation in the show appealed to communities all over the world. It was the first time a show like this has been able to reach these audiences. It’s satisfying to see The Bush’s’ work recognised in different countries. Without live streaming, this simply would not be possible. But it is important too to recognise that we are reaching out to people in the UK as well.”
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