Broadway shows fail to implement online streaming technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shows are now losing millions of dollars per week


During these trying times during the deadly Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic taking over NYC, Broadway theatres have been forced to close their shows leaving them without a source of income until April 13th 2020, at the very earliest. Pundits have made the point that Broaday does not have to go completely dark because modern technology exists that allows live video streaming and online services such as: BroadwayHD, YouTube and Twitch already exist to deliver the product. If Broadway producers wanted to, they could stream their productions to at-home viewers who are limiting outside interaction by practicing social distancing and self quarantines. Broadway productions could stream live shows online and charge viewers a fee to watch them, which would at least cover some of their potential Coronavirus losses and keep their brands alive. Most NYC TV shows are still recording, but without a live studio audience. TV shows have found a way to carry out the show for their at-home viewers and Broadway could also.

The Upsides of Live Streaming a Broadway Show

All of the Broadway theatres are currently closed to the public which limits any further spread of the deadly virus. Any video streaming process would further this agenda and keep people safe from infection. Hosting a video stream of a Broadway show would mitigate the risk poised by having a live theatre audience and would not allow anyone to transmit the virus to staff members or to theatre-goers. If Broadway theatres did decide to start live streaming their Broadway shows, not only would the producers and investors make some money, so would the show’s actors and musical crew. Implementing this kind of model would allow viewers from all around the world to see a live Broadway show, a feat that has never really been done before. Hosting a live stream would also develop a new revenue model for future Broadway outages that could potentially take place, like another NYC terrorist attack or an attack on Broadway itself, which is completely feasible in this current political climate. If NYC theatre-goers were still walking around the City as business per usual and still going to see live Broadway shows, the CDC and other leading doctors predict that the number of New Yorkers infected by the Coronavirus would be increased by over 30x and it would kill thousands of people.

The Downsides of Live Streaming a Broadway Show

Broadway shows were designed to be performed in front of a live audience often with an orchestra and top-of-the-line lighting systems and audio equipment. The experience does not transfer well onto a user's small laptop screen. The Broadway experience is intended to be performed in a 3 dimensional theatre space, not a 2 dimensional cell phone screen or TV in the family room. There are currently no cheap options to set up an at-home 3D viewing experience and hosting a live stream may actually damage a Broadway show’s brand because they would not be able to control how viewers would actually watch the show. The stream would be available to many more people, because it would be accessible by everyone around the world on their online devices, which is a good and a bad thing as bandwidth could be an issue in some places leading to a choppy video experience. Having more people see a Broadway show is typically positive, but it could also have negative effects in the future because less people may not want to see an in-person live Broadway show that they have already seen before on video. With online live streams, there is a very high chance that the stream would be leaked for free to other non Broadway affiliated websites which could impact gross revenues even more and have a long term impact on the shows.

Reasons Online Streaming May Not Come To Broadway

Broadway has a long history of doing things the same way for many years and is not well renowned for adopting new ideas. Live video streaming is probably something that is too new and out of the norm from the traditional way that Broadway operates. Live stream equipment would also be expensive for the Broadway industry to set up, especially in this time of panic and crisis. They would need the top-of-the-line video and live stream equipment to meet people's high expectations of Broadway shows. Broadway actors may also refuse to perform as they, and everyone else in the world, still have concerns about contracting the deadly virus themselves from other performers. The only way that Broadway actors would be comfortable with continuing to perform for a live stream is if the Broadway League enacted rules similar to what the porn industry has in place for their actors. That industry has rules that require the actors regularly test for STDs and STIs as well as the standards set in place where adult actors are only allowed to fraternize with the other members of their industry while they are not working. Broadway actors would have to be tested for the Coronavirus COVID-19 almost daily in order to appease the fears of the other actors and the staff on the stage. Actors would also have to live in a regulated quarantine facility during the hours they are not performing to ensure that they will not get infected. Implementing a live video stream and continuing Broadway performances could help ease the financial burden of the Coronavirus but, it is unlikely that it will happen due to the complex logistics and the Broadway industry being stuck in their old ways.