A Broadway Bonanza on TV:
How It Can Help You Build Your Audience
Today’s blog post is written by Cheryl Dolby, Manager, Business and Lead Development, Patron Technology.
TV viewers have recently been treated to live productions of award-winning and classic musicals on network television drawing new attention to the magic of live theatre. Theatre lovers have long known there’s nothing like the immediacy of seeing a live performance, where anything can and sometimes does happen – just ask the woman in the audience who had her cell phone snatched by Patti Lupone as she made her exit through the house!
In the past, television variety shows often featured Broadway stars performing scenes and songs from their current show. In the 1950s, NBC produced three telecasts of Broadway’s original 1954 production of “Peter Pan,” starring Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard and PBS has been the regular option for viewers to see Broadway on TV through its “Great Performances” and “Live from Lincoln Center” series.
When NBC took, what appeared to be, a somewhat questionable step to bring back live theatre to network TV in 2013, the skeptics were waiting. Critical commentary and the itchy Twitter fingers of theatre ‘aficionados’ notwithstanding, the ratings for NBC’s premiere production The Sound of Music Live! went through the roof and created, for the network, an annual ratings bonanza. It was followed, in 2014, by Peter Pan Live! and, this past December, by The Wiz Live!, which is headed to Broadway for a new production. NBC’s regular December holiday programming this year will be “Hairspray Live!”. Early in 2017, NBC will break the mold and broadcast its first live version of a play, Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men” (“A Few Good Men Live!” ??). This is a good sign for more plays to come.
Fox was not about to let NBC hog the Broadway spotlight and, this year, created its own hybrid television special Grease: Live combining songs from the original stage musical and the film version, as well as additional songs, and incorporating live audiences into the staging giving the production the energy and immediacy of a live, theatrical production. With the success of this telecast, there’s bound to be more from Fox.
All of this is very good news — because by connecting your patrons to the anticipation of these broadcasts you will, in turn, help build audiences for your productions. Here are a few ideas along those lines:
- Are you producing “Hairspray” this year? Cross-market announcements of the next telecast with your live, stage production. Consider viewing parties, talk-backs with your cast, trivia contests.
- Tie in announcements of the next telecast or film release of a musical or play with your live, stage productions. For example “Watch Hairspray Live! on NBC next week, and then see “Sound of Music” on stage now through August”
- Target patrons for your upcoming productions with news that the musical or play version is also on your schedule and offer a special discount to see both: i.e. “Taming of the Shrew” and “Kiss Me Kate”; “Romeo and Juliet” and “West Side Story”; “Hamlet” and “Something Rotten!” – you get the idea.
- Announce an online contest around the heavily-marketed telecast/film with discounts and/or prizes awarded at live performances of your production – show merchandise and a backstage meet and greet with the cast or creators are always favorites.
The networks have discovered the magic of the theatre. Now, you have the opportunity to piggyback your marketing with theirs and drive your ticket sales and audience relationships.