Theatre pay-per-view live streaming quadruples ticket sales

by | Nov 10, 2020

It has been an unusual 2020 for everyone.

But for the cast and crew behind Wise Children and Plush Theatricals’ production Romantics Anonymous it has been nothing short of remarkable.

Back in March they were about to take their UK musical on a tour of the USA, after a sell-out show at the Bristol Old Vic. It would have heralded a major landmark in the company’s history. But everything ground to a halt as the impact of COVID-19 hit home.

The team were travelling to the airport and all set to jet off on the American adventure when the news broke that the UK was going into lockdown. Wise Children’s founder Emma Rice was left with no option but to postpone the tour and reluctantly they headed home. But they did so with a quiet determination that it would not be the end.

Wise Children decided to perform via the one major venue that remained open: the internet. It meant it could perform from the Bristol Old Vic and still achieve its American Dream of engaging an audience in the US. It opted to perform live from the Bristol Old Vic for five nights to ensure its audience would be treated to the atmosphere and production values of a live show.

And so it began its search for a financially viable and secure way of deploying its show into viewers’ homes.

For Simon Baker, technical director at Wise Children, his first enquiries led to dead ends. But Mr Baker “lucked out” when he called TicketCo Media Services. With the right digital pay-per-view live streaming platform in place Wise Children did not look back.

After nearly 12,000 paying customers tuned into five performances of Romantics Anonymous globally via TicketCo Media Services, we caught up with Mr Baker to learn about his experience of using TicketCo’s HD quality streaming service for the first time.

Box office experience

Live streaming to large numbers of people has never been easier for a person or company to achieve. But sourcing the right platform, that provides a secure and financially viable way of broadcasting a production to thousands of paying customers, is crucial to success.

“It’s easy to capture a show whether you plan on broadcasting with one camera, two cameras, or just by using an iPhone,” said Mr Baker. “But platforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitch were never going to be appropriate for Wise Children.

“We required a platform where we could monetise the performance in a secure and financially viable way. In theatre, presentation is everything. And TicketCo’s HD quality stream and simple payment solution answered all our wishes.

“Theatre-goers have never had to use technology to access performances before, so it was crucial that our payment and broadcasting platform was simple, quick, reliable and cost-effective. TicketCo ticked all of those boxes.”

Easy to navigate

Once the technology was in place Wise Children’s focus turned to further logistics. It had to take various measures to ensure the team all worked in a COVID-19 safe environment. And on top of that it had to work out how to attract its audience to make the event a financial success.

“Our biggest challenges were without doubt adapting to the constantly shifting legislation both on a national and local basis concerning COVID-19 restrictions and marketing the performance,” said Mr Baker.

“The show was performed by the same cast from two years ago, and that cast all had to self-isolate together in apartments in Bristol. So, additional costs can quickly spiral.

“But we also had to spread the word about Romantics Anonymous online and reach out to our target audience. Because we were asking customers to buy into technology they had never used before when attending the theatre, we had to ensure the product we offered was easy to navigate and simple to understand.”

Exceeding capacity

Wise Children’s decision to introduce theatregoers to modern technology and live streaming paid off.

In a COVID-19 free world, Romantics Anonymous’ five shows at the iconic Bristol Old Vic would have been able to host a combined maximum of 2,700 people. But by reaching out to a global online audience via TicketCo Media Services, organisers sold more than 11,000 individual streaming passes.

Mr Baker added: “By live streaming the performance, we managed to more than quadruple our total audience, and that’s only considering people that purchased tickets.

“Many families would’ve watched the performance together from the safety of their own home meaning our total reach would’ve been far greater than the nearly 12,000 figure we received. We wouldn’t be able to host those numbers in the Bristol Old Vic in such a short time frame.”

Roaring success

So much was the success of Wise Children’s partnership with TicketCo Media Services and the delivery of Romantics Anonymous, the production company has confirmed another live show will be broadcast in December.

Hosted once again by the Bristol Old Vic, The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk will be broadcast via TicketCo Media Services.

“Everyone at Wise Children agreed at the beginning of lockdown that we hold two key responsibilities,” said Mr Baker. “We are responsible for the employment of freelance workers, some of whom slipped through the net regarding the Government’s financial support schemes, and the enjoyment of our customers.

“Like we have seen in the sport sector, theatre is responsible for providing a mental boost for many in these challenging times. We are thrilled that with TicketCo Media Services’s support, we are able to deliver a show that is not only of high quality but also financially viable too.”

Hybrid future

Impressed by the pay-per-view live streaming ticket sales for Romantics Anonymous, Baker is confident that hybrid events will become a key part of the theatre industry’s future.

“We now know that there is a new audience beyond the auditorium,” he said. “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.

“People might be experiencing health issues or may have problems accessing the theatre we perform in, preventing them from attending shows. The cost of attending a live show might be a factor for some people too.

“We have now sourced a second revenue stream once theatres re-open and we have plans to work digitally in the future to broaden our reach and maximise profits.”

No barriers

Live streaming the performance using Wise Children’s own broadcast capabilities proved much simpler than Mr Baker first expected.

He said: “We had some minor hurdles to overcome once we partnered with TicketCo, but the communication we received from the TicketCo team was excellent and ensured we could focus on delivering a performance of high quality to our customers.

“We never felt as though we were taking on additional work by live streaming, our cameramen were simply allowed to get on with it. There are no barriers with TicketCo, we can reach our existing audience and new viewers globally – it is why we placed so much faith into TicketCo’s streaming service and we were thrilled with the efficiency.”

Get involved

Mr Baker has a simple message for production companies that are currently not exploring the opportunity to live stream productions.

“Currently #SaveOurTheatres is a trend on social media at the moment, and live streaming could be the difference between survival and closure for many venues,” said Mr Baker. “It’s a cost-effective solution that has longevity and can be utilised further once COVID-19 restrictions eventually ease.

“And from an acting perspective, performing to an empty auditorium perhaps wasn’t as alien to our actors as it may sound. Our technical and dress rehearsals are performed to a high standard in front of a working auditorium, which is exactly what our ‘live’ audience was during our five shows streamed by TicketCo.

“We still managed to translate that theatre feeling to our audience even though they were watching from home.”

Wise Children is a theatre production company created by multi-award-winning director Emma Rice. It makes ground-breaking work and tours the UK and internationally. It also runs a professional development programme ‘The School for Wise Children’, training new and a more diverse generation of theatre practitioners. Learn more here:

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.


The goal of this guide is to provide the absolute best, most up-to-date, definitive guide for theatres and production companies to learn how to live stream shows to their audience as part of their integrated approach to sales and marketing.

Written by Greig Box Turnbull

Experienced communications and strategic PR advisor, with a strong background in journalism and public relations. Founder of Fortitude Communications, director of Oxford City ice hockey club and Vice Chair of Oxford United in the Community. A former Daily Mirror journalist and Oxford United FC managing director.

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