Do televised events eclipse live events?

When HBO announced way back in December that they would broadcast a live telecast of Will Ferrell’s You’re Welcome America, there was a lot of chatter that just the news that the show would appear on HBO would cannibalize sales to the live event.
On one of the chat sites, an anonymous poster called the Broadway producers “stupid” for allowing such a thing.
I remember being shocked that people were that concerned that a 2-dimensional telecast would preclude people from seeing a Hollywood A-lister in a live show, when he never performs live.  But I kept my blogging-trap shut until I had the grosses to back me up.
And now, we can surely say, that the HBO event did not at all have a negative effect on the live production.
So why didn’t it?

Sure, scarity had a lot to do with it.  With only eight weeks of tickets available to the public (less opening night, less Tony Voters, less press tickets), there was never going to be a problem filling the mini-Cort Theater with Ferrell fans.  Supply.  Demand.  Success.

But you know why else?  We had great product.

And great LIVE product.

Do people stop going to Yankees games because they can see them televised?  Nope.  Did Justin Timberlake have a problem getting rid of tickets to his show when he televised a show?  No way.

If your product is exceptional enough, there are people that are going to need to see it, and see it live.

There are a whole lot of people out there that think live entertainment is on its way out, due to modern technology’s ability to deliver content on our tvs, our laptops, our phones, and more.

But here’s my contrarian view: as two dimensional entertainment becomes more and more available and easier to obtain, filling every crevice of our lives, the more rare three-dimensional or live entertainment gets.

And the more rare something gets, the more valuable it gets . . . and the more we crave it.

So live entertainment isn’t going anywhere . . . except maybe occasionally to a television near you.

  • Ben says:

    I was very excited when I learned that HBO was going to air this. I’m in Minneapolis and was unable to get to New York to see this production live. However, I can see Will Ferrell on TV any time I want to. If I could’ve seen him live, I most certainly would’ve chosen that route instead.

  • Gil says:

    Legally Blonde proved it too.
    So why do people keep thinking that if we televised all Broadway show closing nights, nobody would ever see them again?

  • Scott says:

    I wish more Broadway productions would take your lead and consider more televised versions of shows. Especially limited runs like this. Once they’re gone . . . they’re gone, and if you weren’t lucky enough to live in the NYC area, or score a ticket, then you’ve just missed out. I think not only would this help to broaden the Broadway demographic, but it would also open up a whole new world of marketing opportunities for a production, and also might be able to provide new sources for collecting capital on the front end.
    It also seems funny to me that there’s always flap about videotaped or filmed performances, but yet audio recordings of musicals are commonplace. Isn’t it the same concept? You’re not negating a live performance with a cast recording, you’re simply preserving it for posterity (and possibly promotional purposes). Why should it be any different for video? I’m proud of my “Sunday in the Park,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Pippin,” and “Rent” DVDs, but where are my “Drowsy Chaperone” or “Grey Gardens” DVDs?!? (or “13” Mr. Producer?!? hehehe) C’mon Broadway . . . if you’re willing to try something new, you might find a whole new outlet for selling and promoting your product, even long after it’s left the boards.

  • Richard says:

    I suspect that in the case of the Will Ferrell show, because of the fact of the limited engagement and the subject matter, which is going to appeal to a specific, east- and west-coast slightly liberally-oriented, self-named sophisticated audience, the HBO announcement may have been irrelevant.
    But–I believe that with most shows with broader appeal, such an announcement, done “right,” might actually boost sales. Why?
    There’s a huge segment of the public that makes decisions about entertainment spending based on what they think they’re being told they’re going to miss out on–that it’s now a media event, and seeing it “live” imparts a special status to the spender.
    Face it: there are about a dozen nationally-recognized media outlets that control about 80% of what the public perceives as newsworthy. Whether something is truly newsworthy is becoming increasingly irrelevant.
    People are entranced by what is presented as news, whether it’s entertainment or politics or business. Once the little guy in Sioux Falls knows about Ms. Starlet in a show, it means more to the average New Yorker to see Ms. Starlet because it feels that he participated in a nationally-recognized event.
    There’s a reason big-budget movie releases make the lion’s share of the movie box office. It’s not about quality. It’s about national exposure. People do not make independent choices about their time and dollars. They allow themselves to be led toward events that they believe others believe are important.

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