Making digital theatre productions financially viable
The resounding success of hybrid events has confirmed digital productions in the arts sector are here to stay.
It’s one thing to deliver a digital strand to any physical performance, but quite another to make it financially sustainable over time.
Flexible pay-per-view packages help secure maximum returns for your outlay. But there are other measures to apply to get the most revenue out of the digital division of any hybrid event.
With the input of award-winning professionals, we list our top digital event delivery considerations here.
Discover Unlimited Potential
Not too long ago, free streaming platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitch were widely accepted as the only way to deliver an event digitally.
However, monetising via these platforms is not possible via pay-per-view events. It’s essential all digital productions which require audiences to pay for the privilege to tune in are delivered securely via a robust streaming and payment platform, like TicketCo Media Services.
Caroline Aston, Audience and Insight Manager at Chichester Festival Theatre, said protecting the work of creatives helps make digital theatre a success. She added:
“Allowing video to appear in areas where it can be copied or watched for free could jeopardise the future of streamed content.
“Partnering with a trusted streaming provider where audiences are sent a secure, unique, code is really important and means performances can be broadcast securely.”
The importance of a robust live stream host
If you make the right choice of where you chose to host your virtual or hybrid event, you should be safe. Hear Jessica Goodfellow at TicketCo go through the most important points of consideration before going virtual or hybrid.
Now a secure streaming platform has been established, let’s talk about revenue.
The biggest source of income from the digital strand of a hybrid event is ticket sales. Tickets can be sold for live stream and video on-demand productions separately.
And ticket prices don’t have to be fixed. You’ll be surprised to discover how many viewers are happy to pay more money for a digital ticket to reflect the number of ‘household’ viewers. Caroline added:
“For our performances of South Pacific, we developed a number of streaming payment options so people could support our work further if they wished.
“Regardless of how much digital customers paid, they all received the same streaming experience. But we were pleasantly surprised by the number of viewers who selected the higher priced option, and we are of course extremely grateful for their support.”
Providing your viewers with a voluntary option to pay more to watch a digital performance does not have to be your only alternative payment model.
Once a show has been captured, it can be made available on-demand with tickets sold at a cheaper price. This payment option will appeal to people who missed the show, and those who enjoyed the performance so much they want to watch it again.
If you’re delivering regular hybrid events, you might want to consider a subscription model too where viewers can pay a fixed monthly fee and get access to everything you publish.
An exclusive benefit to digital theatre is the revenue and exposure opportunities available once the stage curtain drops.
Simon Baker is an award-winning Technical Director and Digital Producer with touring theatre production company Wise Children. He described owning a multi-camera production shot in 4K as a valuable marketing and upselling tool.
“Once a show ends, the footage we’ve captured isn’t thrown into the bin,” said Simon. “We own that footage, and we can choose to do whatever we want with it.
“This means we can take our show to the edit suite and explore more revenue opportunities outside live streaming and video on-demand. Providers such as Amazon, Netflix and the BBC burn through content and it’s possible to pitch our performance to them. Thinking outside the box is what often makes digital theatre successful.”
To many, live theatre is a closed shop. Health, travel and financial implications all contribute towards peoples’ inability to attend theatre in person.
Simply put, there is an audience beyond the auditorium – an audience that is willing to pay. Digital theatre offers great flexibility too.
Simon said: “As an Arts Council funded organisation, Wise Children has a moral obligation to make theatre accessible to everyone. Hybrid offers an excellent solution.
“A live show cannot provide a quality experience for those with sight or hearing difficulties, for example. By live streaming, we can audio describe performances, we can caption them and have a BSL interpreter.
“Making performances accessible to everyone defines the power of hybrid.”
Physical and digital audiences of a hybrid event largely consume the same content. But they are delivered and promoted very differently.
The backbone of marketing a physical event can be applied to your digital strand too. For example, it’s essential to tell potential viewers:
- What is happening
- When it is taking place
- Where people buy tickets
The big difference is in your outreach. Unlike a performance that can only be attended by physical viewers, digital events reach audiences on a global scale.
This should impact how you market the digital strand to your hybrid event. For instance, people who follow your social media channels can be targeted via online campaigns, paid advertising and newsletters.
You’re not restricted to promoting an event to an audience living locally either. So when marketing your digital production, think big, think global.
A beginners guide to live stream marketing
Marketing for a live stream is remarkably similar, yet totally different to your usual event marketing.
A key consideration when promoting a digital performance is when your customers are most likely to buy tickets.
Unlike traditional theatre where tickets must be purchased via a box office in advance of the show, digital passes can be accessed seconds before a performance is due to go live.
Some organisers sell as many as 75% of digital streaming passes on the day of the performance. This means promotional content via social media and communication to your target audiences should be consistent in the hours leading up to your event going live.
An Ofcom study revealed the average UK resident spent a staggering five hours and 40 minutes watching TV or online video content per day in 2020.
London’s Bush Theatre tapped into this demand for online content by selling almost 4,000 tickets for seven digital performances of its recent production Overflow.
“Regarding ticket sales and revenue, we more than doubled what we predicted before launching the show thanks to digital theatre,” said Beatrice Burrows, Head of Marketing at Bush Theatre.
“The number of digital tickets we sold was comparable to a five-week continuous run of performances in our own theatre – no one at Bush Theatre expected that kind of response.”
All physical theatre productions are supported financially by sponsors and partners. So why shouldn’t this apply to digital theatre?
Using software, it’s possible to add considerable commercial value to organisations interested in sponsoring a show via graphics and shoutouts. Consider offering sponsorship opportunities for full productions or half-time intervals.
In addition, delivering a digital production via TicketCo means additional items can be sold to customers during the checkout procedure while your audience is in the ‘buying mood’.
This includes sales of programmes and official merchandise which can be delivered directly to viewers’ doors.
One of the most important considerations when delivering a digital event is ensuring you provide a smooth online experience. Fulfilling this is half the battle won.
A Nielsen Total Audience Report revealed a platform’s ease of use were of greater value to the customer than the availability of content and playback quality.
When people stream a performance, they do it in their leisure time. The last thing they want is to encounter login difficulties that are preventing them from watching the content they have paid for – we’ve all been there!
TicketCo Media Services is the world’s only fully integrated event payments platform and pay-per-view streaming solution. This multi-use function means hybrid event organisers can provide a convenient one-stop shop for ticket buyers.
Patch Jobson of UK tour management and content specialists TourLife said: “I have encouraged other businesses to use TicketCo for the ticketing function alone. It’s simple to operate and anyone can use it with a bit of guidance.
“If you do need guidance, TicketCo are only a phone call or text message away.”
Important to remember
The opportunities concerning digital theatre are limitless
We could talk about it all day!
But here are some final key points to consider before launching your first hybrid event.
- Producing a digital event can cost as little or as much as an organisation wishes.
- Be realistic – just like a physical performance, your first digital event will not be foot perfect!
- From Australia to USA, Europe and Africa, digital theatre has the power to engage viewers across the world.