With the Broadway League now considering an eight week Broadway show suspension due to COVID-19, producers now look to live streaming options
With in-person Broadway performances now closed for the foreseeable future, Broadway producers and theatre landlords have to do something to keep this avenue of American theatre alive and one way that has been proposed is for current Broadway shows to now provide a live Broadway show experience through live-streaming pay-per-view solutions.
Live-Streaming Pay-Per-View Graduates To Become Mainstream
Once lampooned, the idea of having a live Broadway show be only available through broadcast or live-streamed is finally getting some traction in all the right places. The plan would be that each Broadway show would be live-streamed 8 times per week, at a regularly scheduled time when the show would normally appear on the Great White Way. It would be the virtual-world version, but still with all the traditional aspects of the show. The performance would not be recorded in order to protect the brand and other safeguards would be introduced to eradicate piracy, copying and video sharing. While a two dimensional version of any Broadway show is far less satisfying than the real in-person experience, at least this solution offers a legitimate solution to the challenge that faces Broadway producers who want to keep this form of art alive and when each day passes without the art being performed, then another nail is driven home into the coffin of regret. Innovate or die is the order of the day and Broadway is finally stepping up.
Streaming Services Begging For The Opportunity To Live Stream Broadway Shows
Previous Broadway shows can already be seen online and even some concerts are now being live-streamed, but the idea of actually allowing current Broadway shows to be live-streamed is a very new idea that is no longer as outrageous as it once seemed. Various streaming services have expressed great interest in producing a solution that could deliver Broadway in our trying times. Pricing, logistics and technology have been discussed between a number of parties that have included the Broadway League, Amazon Prime, Broadway HD, Microsoft and Disney +. Even Hulu, Youtube and HBO have indicated interest and they have already set their own price point of $29.95 per show. NYC has agreed that no sales tax is applicable if the show is shot out of a Broadway theatre and it seems that the momentum behind this idea is fast gaining steam. The streaming services have cut their fees to get this venture started and have proposed a 70/30 revenue split, with the bigger share going to Broadway show producers, who will have to pay for the cast, tech, rent and video equipment out of their slice, with the streaming services providing delivery, billing and tech troubleshooting. It might not be a money maker for everyone, but it does scale well and will keep the art alive. Federal and City funds have also been offered to get this proposal off the ground.
Necessity is the Mother of All Invention
With an all-hands-on-deck attitude and an overwhelmingly positive feeling that necessity is the mother of invention, the Broadway community is finally in a place to reinvent the delivery of its product when a theatre cannot be used. The solution may only be temporary until the virus passes and theatres open back up and the show can go on in real three-dimensional experience, which is where live theatre truly shines. The normally reticent unions have seen the writing on the wall and have been more than supportive of the temporary solutions to get their members back working again in a safe and reliable manner. The Broadway demographic often skews older and many Broadway fans may be left behind who cannot come to grips with the technology in order to watch a video online, but as Ticketmaster and Telecharge have already proven, most Broadway tickets can now be sold online, so there is no reason why the show itself could not be online. It is clear that there will be some problems, but there are no hurdles that cannot be breached.
Lessons Learned from the Rent ‘Live’ Broadcast Faux Pas
Broadway fans felt deceived when the live streaming and TV broadcast of Broadway’s Rent in January 2019 was not in fact live at all, but a taped version from the dress rehearsal from the night before. Michael Greif and Alex Rudzinski's decision to hoodwink audiences has lasting ramifications that are seen even now and the very thought of showing a taped version of any of the shows would not be considered as audiences will not be deceived twice. If the lead actor breaks a foot, then they either appear in a wheelchair, the understudy goes on, or the show is cancelled. It would be just the same as it would be in live theatre. It has been noted that the adherence to the live theatre mantra will get the industry through this difficult time.
Broadway Live-Stream Actors and Crew Plan To Use ‘Team 10 House’ Model
Some challenges have yet to be overcome, but it has been suggested that the Broadway show actors and crew would need to be isolated from the general public during this pandemic, so that they do not contract the virus and pass it onto fellow cast and crew members. Living in the theatre itself sounds quite improbable, but at least they could live in the same place to make sure they do not get sick or infected by anyone else. A great example of this is the popular Team 10 house, which produces a huge amount of Youtube videos and includes Gen X’ers like Logan Paul, Jake Paul, Chance Sutton, and Anthony Trujillo. If the main actors in the Broadway show do not want to be away from their families during this time, the understudies should be able to replace them, after all the show must go on and Broadway is bigger than any one single actor. A number of corporate sponsors have been quick to sign up to this solution including Ford, Google, Facebook and Level 3. Their financial and technical investments could make this project succeed where others before have failed.
Despite a huge setback with the COVID-19 virus outbreak, live Broadway theatre can still take place in NYC using modern technology to minimize the risks and keep the industry alive until the pandemic diminishes to the point where audiences can return to Broadway theatres.