There's been an extensive amount of discussion over the last year about whether or not performing arts companies should be recording their performances for digital audiences. Covid-19 has undoubtedly been a catalyst for this discussion, but these are conversations about more than just the next 12 months. Recently a study from Accenture reported that they expect there to be a long-term trend that will see 2 trillion dollars migrate from public spaces to home-focused industries due to changing consumer preferences as a result of Covid-19.
In parallel with this, both pre-lockdown and post-lockdown the growing popularity of real-time live streaming and video-on-demand is difficult to ignore. According is Statista, the global video streaming industry is set to quadruple in size, from £21 billion in 2017, to £84 billion by 2025. Globally the user base of video streaming is similarly expected to swell to over 1.4 billion by 2025, just about a fifth of world's population.
This growth represents opportunity across all industries, including the performing arts sector. Undoubtedly digital shows are not a replacement to live shows. However the consensus seems to be that digital show can actually satisfy a very different type of demand for content that audiences have.
Statistically, it seems there's still some room for debate over the exact breakdown on audiences that are interested in digital shows. But it's undeniable some organizations have been having truly massive success online. Take Creation Theatre in Oxford, who said on an episode of BBC Radio 4's Front Row that they had achieved "more online in the space of a couple of months than they'd achieved in 22 years of trying to attract regional audiences."
So the potential is there for performing arts companies to achieve huge success online and it's possible to do this without being offering a National Theatre level streaming service. Thus regardless if your pro-digital, anti-digital or somewhere in the middle, it's worth considering just how the benefits of live streaming and VoD are are for performing arts companies.
So for your convenience, we've curated a list of the top 8 benefits of streaming your content.
Wider Audience Reach
Not only you can connect with your existing audiences online, but digital content opens up the potential for your organization to have truly global reach. For UK organisations, this potential is heightened by the fact that the UK market is one of the most well-known performing arts industries in the world.
This means that with digital content you can start reaching new demographics for your organisation's content online. This could be younger audiences who are both the most likely to engage with digital arts content and are the most likely to pay, according to research by Indigo.
Improved Accessibility for Audiences
Most potential audiences simply don't live near where a show is occurring, nor are they able to travel to where it's occurring. This can be due to any number of personal limitations. For instance, consider the estimated 14 million disabled people in the UK or the roughly 15 million people aged over 60. For many people within these groups, their physical circumstances greatly inhibit their ability to travel and access live arts content.
Then there's also the financial costs, and not simply the cost of purchasing a ticket. Other costs need to be considered like travel, lodging, food and drinks associated with attended a live show. For the nearly 12 million UK citizens within the UK's bottom income bracket, these costs can quickly become prohibitively expensive.
This is what makes a digital show such an attractive alternative for so many people. Because content that was previously inaccessible to them is suddenly accessible from the comfort of their home and at a more reasonable price point.
In fact, surveys have shown that these types of accessibility issues are some of the most common motivations behind why audiences choose to watch digital shows over live shows.
In one Arts Council England study, of those who opted to watch a digital show, 67% reported doing so because it saved them travel, and 56% reported doing so because it was cheaper. When only rural respondents are considered, these statistics are even higher, with 80% reporting that it saved them travel, and 61% reported that it was cheaper. Further still, when only elderly respondents are considered, these statistics are even higher than this, with 84% reporting that it saved them travel and 69% reporting that it was cheaper.
So it seems that cost and geography can be two hugely limiting factors for audiences - both of which live video streaming and VoD content can help solve.
New In-Person Audiences
Contrary to what some people might think, audiences who watch a performance are not less likely to go see that same performance live. In fact, the inverse is actually true - audiences who watch a performance live are actually more likely to go see that same performance live. This means that any of your digital audiences are actually potential future live audiences, so by creating digital content, your organization can help improve the attendance of their live performances too.
Better Audience Data
Digital content gives an organization the opportunity to learn about audiences using online data such as user data, usage data, and user surveys. The specific data that's leveraged depends on the software services that are used to collect the data, and the data that's chosen for collection. But ultimately when they're used effectively these online data sources can provide any organization with a vast amount of gamechanging qualitative and quantitative insights into their audiences.
Take an organisation's strategic decisions, such as what content they'll create next, or how they'll market their content. These decisions are incrediblely important because they directly impact an organisations cost and success. Insightful audience data can help inform these types of decisions, allowing organisations to better plan for their own futures and better connect with what their audiences most want from them.
Moreover, the type of insight you can get from digital content is actually more detailed in nature than what you can get from a live audience. Boredom, for instance, is difficult to quantify at a live event. But at a digital performance, it's much easier to quantify because an audience member's attention span can be measured. This can be done by reviewing the viewership drop-off points across your digital performance's runtime. So in many ways, digital audience data is more useful for organisations that live audience data.
New Revenue Streams
Digital content opens up an avenue to new digital revenue streams that can help the performing arts industry supplement more traditional ones. When it comes to monetising digital shows there's infact a huge number of different models to be explored here. Some of these are: fixed price tickets, pay-what-you-can tickets, season passes, subscriptions, patronage, and donations. Organisations can even combine these methods along with others to find what works best for them.
What's more, many more audiences than people think are in fact willing to pay for digital content. A report by Baker Richards Consulting suggested that:
- 77% would be willing to pay something; with
- 14% willing to pay as much as live
- 46% willing to pay a reduced amount
- 7% willing to make a what you can contribution
- 10% willing to donate; and
- 23% not interested or only interested if free.
However this doesn't mean that audiences will pay, it only means that they're willing to pay. In order to make this jump to becoming paying customers, these audiences must first show provided with experiences that match their expectations. These expectations are for digital content that provides both convenience and quality. If performing arts companies can meet these expectations, then the potential of these new revenue streams could be gianormous.
And these digital revenue streams don't simply have to be one-off payments either. In fact, live streamed events have been shown to provide better sales conversions than other types of events. This means that if an organisation implements promotional offers (such as tickets to live performances) into their digital shows, audiences are highly likely to respond well to those offerings.
Long Lasting Value
There certainly is something priceless about the ephemeral quality of a live show. This quality was described by Andrew Keenan-Bolger as "an amorphous art, constantly shifting and evolving with every performance." Unfortunately, this is not a quality a recorded performance inately possesses, but it is one that recordings can momentarily capture. This way a performance's best moments can be enjoyed by audiences repeatedly, after the curtains close.
Financially, this means that an organisation can leverage the value of the recording over time with digital VoD releases and re-releases of the same digital show. Organisations can also repurpose a recording into other types of social media content, such as infographics, or blog stills - all of which helps feed back aesthetic of your brand. All of this feeds back into the value of the recording, and many of these long-term considerations are currently being overlooked by many performing arts companies.
Better Brand Awareness
Video content can help improve the connection that audiences have with an organisation. When audiences watch a digital performance, that audience member is effectively letting that organisation into their home. This is the place where they relax, where they spend their alone time, and where they spend time with their family and friends. There is an element of trust in letting an organisation into this space. When audiences do this, they open themselves up to recieving your brand in a different way than when they go to see a performance live.
Effectively, using video content organisations now have an entirely different way to spread their brand identity. In fact many marketers would argue that video content is now essential for building a brand. This is primarily due to the changing expectations of audiences who are growing increasingly accustomed to having videos of any content they want right at their fingertips. By providing this type of content, organisations are creating new touchpoints through which audiences can discover their brand.