Increasing event accessibility via on-demand broadcasting
WOW – Women of the World – UK Festival achieved significant global engagement this year via online streaming.
Organised by The WOW Foundation, the annual festival forms part of its overall work to tackle gender inequality. Traditionally held at London’s Southbank Centre, where it was founded in 2010, this year it went online to overcome COVID-19 restrictions – and achieved phenomenal figures.
We spoke to Charlotte Marshall, Head of Communications and Marketing at the WOW Foundation about its streaming and on-demand debut success.
WOW Festival 2021 was enjoyed by viewers in multiple countries.
“The festival was brilliant,” said Charlotte. “Of course, we are all itching to get back to doing events in person. But going digital was a great success. There were some disadvantages to delivering the festival digitally – I guess we could not have that physical impact which an event in central London always has.
“But the advantages were significant. We were able to market the UK festival to a global audience and people were able to watch shows regardless of where they were in the world. Our marketing was focused on attracting more people from the UK, but we still had people tune in from a number of different continents which was great to see.”
Ordinarily, WOW’s London Festival takes place over three days in March and coincides with International Women’s Day.
This year’s online event saw more than 30 ticketed events delivered across three weeks, thanks to financial support by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, as well as the festival’s headline partner Bloomberg.
To ensure it could cope with anticipated demand, a reliable and robust host was required to provide viewers with a seamless streaming experience. It partnered with TicketCo Media Services.
“We work really closely with the Southbank Centre, they had previously worked with TicketCo, but we were still keen to explore the options available,” said Charlotte. “After conducting research and hearing from other organisations, we decided TicketCo was a suitable platform for us. We delivered a number of our events on-demand and the TicketCo platform could accommodate this to ensure we could reach out to as many people possible.”
High production values
To make WOW Festival 2021 appeal visually it partnered with Tea Films, StageText and Performance Interpreting. The four organisations worked together to execute a carefully structured recording, editing and accessibility plan to ensure it delivered quality, polished, content.
Charlotte added: “All the filming took place in advance of the festival, so we were able to provide viewers with the best possible streaming experience. Some of our events were live and delivered via Zoom, many of these were WOW workshops that featured special guests including Ruby Wax, Kimberle Crenshaw, Arundhati Roy and more.
“It was truly exciting to deliver content with such high production value which will be relevant to not only WOW Festival 2021 but also our social channels throughout the year.”
In addition to reaching new audiences, WOW UK Festival 2021 also broke down additional attendance barriers.
For those with hearing difficulties, all pre-recorded shows were captioned and BSL interpreted so they could enjoy the shows. Additionally, anyone who usually struggled to physically attend the WOW Festival due to health, travel or financial reasons could tune in on-demand.
Charlotte said: “All of our on-demand shows were captioned, that was a great way to make our event accessible to everyone. We also timed a lot of our pre-recorded events to ‘go live’ at a specific time. TicketCo’s on-demand function meant ticket buyers unable to tune in at 7pm could watch later that evening or within seven days of the show being delivered. People could whenever and wherever, that’s a powerful tool for us to have.”
Tackling gender inequality
The WOW Foundation exists to build, convene and sustain a global movement that believes a gender equal world is desirable, possible and urgently required.
It is responsible for fulfilling WOW’s potential through festivals, events, school programmes and more. The COVID-19 pandemic changed how the charity works, with many WOW festivals going online in countries including Turkey, Nepal and the US.
The WOW Festival was able to ensure it sold tickets securely via the TicketCo integrated payments platform. This gave the organiser peace of mind that streaming codes could not be shared.
Charlotte said: “We loved working with TicketCo. Unique streaming codes that prevent viewers from sharing links was a huge asset to WOW Festival 2021. It ensured we had full control over how we monetised our festival.
“The ticketing solution was easy to manage too, festivalgoers had no issues watching shows due to the platform’s simplicity and easy-access. We’d definitely recommend TicketCo to other festival organisers.”
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