Revenue / 11.06.17
The Double-Edged Sword of Live-Streaming Events
It’s show time. The last stragglers file into their seats, silence their devices, shrug off their coats and settle in for some stunning opera: Mozart’s The Magic Flute. The lights dim and timeless, eighteenth-century music fills the theater.
Somewhere in the back, a theatergoer loudly munches popcorn.
This is a typical experience for attendees of The Met: Live in HD, a live-streaming Metropolitan Opera simulcast series that brings opera to the masses through their local movie theaters. Launched in 2006 with only 400 screens, the series now serves select theaters around the world, streaming content to more than 2,000 movie theaters in 71 countries.
The Met: Live in HD was born to bolster ticket sales for the Metropolitan Opera House. In the wake of September 11, 2001, the Met saw years of declining ticket sales, likely a result of decreased tourism to New York City. Finally, after selling a mere 76.8 percent of available tickets in the 2005-06 season, the company sold 83.9 percent in 2006-07, an increase attributed in part to the free simulcasts of the season’s opening night.
In addition to the simulcasts, the Met also bolstered sales with the launch of an all-Met station and free streaming audio of one performance a week on the Met website — but the most successful initiative was The Met: Live in HD.
This streaming experience gives opera fans — new and old — ease of access to some of the highest quality opera productions in the country. The tickets, just $25 for adults, are cheaper than most live theater seats, and HD film technology allows viewers to view opera as if they were sitting in the auditorium.
It’s no wonder the Met saw its sales increase in its 2006-07 season for the first time in six years. But where exactly are they now, and what is the current role of The Met: Live in HD?
Where Are Ticket Sales Now?
The live-streaming continues and saw its 100th broadcast in the 2016-17 season. However, the Met isn’t as optimistic as it was in 2007.
According to the New York Times, “In the 2015-16 season, the Met took in 66 percent of its potential capacity.”
Although the company’s paid attendance rate, which includes discounted tickets, rose to 75 percent this season from 72 percent in 2015-16, the challenge is turning newcomers into regulars, and especially season-ticket holders.
“It just shows how many tickets we have to sell to single-ticket buyers to make up for the declining subscription base,” says Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager.
Operawire.com published a list this year of solutions to help the Met’s ticket sale struggles, one of which includes “Don’t Play All Your HD Cards.” The author posits that the Met’s decision to showcase every production in its season in The Met: Live in HD might dissuade potential live attendees. He suggests showcasing half of the season’s productions to maintain mystery for the others.
This dip in ticket sales could be the result of many variables, but the idea to control how many seasonal productions are shown in movie theaters would ideally create more demand for the live-event experience and not just the simulcast. As the Met struggles with getting people into its actual venue, they might be wise to consider that not all technology is good technology.
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Tags: Live-Streaming , Theater