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Can streaming become a reliable revenue stream?

Nicholas Triantafyllou, the National Theatre’s IT chief, detailed the challenges and successes of the group’s innovative NT at Home programme during a webinar looking at the future of online ticketing in the post-COVID era.

Triantafyllou was joined by Queue-it CEO Niels Henrik Sodemann and Ian Nuttall, the founder of TheTicketingBusiness and Xperiology, for a lively panel discussion on the current state of ticketing and what its future will look like.

Established in April after the closure of UK venues due to the COVID-19 outbreak, NT at Home has attracted more than 12 million views of the 15 productions broadcast for free via the theatre’s YouTube channel.

Triantafyllou, the NT’s director of information technology, discussed the speed at which the group had to progress its shows and develop the capabilities to stream for a ‘live’ audience for their premiere.

“We wanted to continue to engage audiences and continue to achieve our objectives as an institution despite being closed,” he said. “Practically, our ticket sales dropped to zero overnight. Bars and restaurants, touring and cinema screenings went.

“It wouldn’t have worked unless everyone pulled together. Our artists – actors, performers and musicians – were extremely generous with clearing rights and promoting the live streams.

“We had to learn on the job as we progressed so quickly. You get immediate feedback from digital and adjust quickly – like when is it best to ask for donations? That’s not true in physical theatre or for cinema screenings.

“Partnerships with Queue-it and YouTube were so important as our infrastructure was not there.”

The NT chose not to charge for the performances, instead focusing on reaching out to new audiences while continuing to engage theatre enthusiasts.

“There are signs of a new audience,” he added. “The viewership of NT at Home was international in flavour, and marketing teams are looking at that.

“Donations have helped, although they cannot alone cover the loss of ticketing revenue.”

Queue-it’s Sodemann described the traditional ticketing business flow from artist through to fans, outlining key facets such as that it is reliant on money advances and dependent on proximity to the performance and its stars.

The online streaming model theoretically removes some of the mid-sized players in the business flow with venues, sponsors and promoters not necessarily required between the artist and the fan. However, Sodemann suggested that promoters and other entities appeared to be an important part of the model during the rush to virtual performances over the last few months, citing K-pop band BTS and country star Garth Brooks’ drive-in tour.

Sodemann went through key considerations for those assessing the online streaming model and whether it’s right for their organisation, with key data that outlines the difficulties of turning streaming into a revenue stream.

“For example, can you replicate revenue levels from the traditional model, such as when a band such as the Rolling Stones play effectively the same concert maybe 50 times?” he said. “That’s probably not possible.”

Watch the full webinar here