5 Reasons why I loved Peter Pan Live on NBC.

Imagine for a second that you start producing Broadway shows.  And your first Broadway show is Wicked.  The next Broadway show is bound to come up short, no matter how well it does, right?

That’s the position NBC was in after last year’s surprising The Sound of Music pulled in over 18 million viewers.  It was a Wicked-like performance, and they set themselves up for a disappointment.

The ratings are now in for Pan and it pulled in only 9.2 million viewers (!), which is one of the best Thursday nights the network has ever had.  But still, the rumors are that the big brass at NBC was upset.

Not me.

Look, I’ll admit, Peter Pan is not my favorite musical.  So I can’t say that I was ‘flying’ over the choice, but there are still so many reasons why I loved the telecast.  Here are five:

1.  CHILDREN WILL LISTEN

Would I love a live telecast of Falsettos or Assassins or even The Will Rogers Follies?  You bet.  But that’s selfish.  This telecast is not about me.  It’s about the mass television viewing audience, and all of us theater snobs in the big cities need to remember that, well, a spoonful of sugar helps the you-know-what go down.  Introducing Pan to families and kids will instill viewing habits for the future.  9.2 million saw this sucker.  9.2 million saw singing and dancing and flying.  You don’t think some of them will want to see it live?  This telecast of Peter Pan is probably one of the greatest audience development tools the theater has seen in the last decade.  (Just too bad that we couldn’t get one of these on a Sunday night to get more of the kiddies watching – damn that Sunday Night Football!)

2.  BROADWAY STARS BECOME TV STARS

Wasn’t it great seeing Christian Borle up there . . . again?  And Kelli and even Taylor (although she left us for the bright lights of H-town pretty-darn-quick)?  The more of our folks that are branded on TV, the more that people will want to see them when they are on Broadway.  Yep, that sound that you just heard was a few more people buying tickets for The King and I this spring.

3.  DANCE, DANCE, REVOLUTION

The Sound of Music isn’t that much of a dance show . . . so we didn’t get a chance to see much.  But oh man, did Rob Ashford have those lost boys and those ‘native islanders’ (or whatever they called them – I thought that might have been a little too PC) doing some fantastic stuff.  Here’s another thing about me – I’m not the biggest dance guy.  But let me tell you . . . America is.  In every focus group I’ve been to, the participants always talk about the dancing.  Dancing means Broadway to them, and it was great to see the talented Rob Ashford get to showcase his wares.

4.  WE DON’T WANT YOU TO JUST WATCH . . .

It was clear from the get-go that NBC didn’t want the viewers just sitting back and watching the show.  They wanted them watching their twitter feed as well.  They were pushing hard to spread the message of Pan and the telecast wide-wide-wide . . . and it worked.  Ok, ok, so maybe the “post a selfie to help save Tinkerbell” was a bit much.  But they still get an A for social media effort.

5.  IT WAS A PLATFORM TO SELL OTHER STUFF

I once attended a sales seminar that said, “Never present any product without trying to sell another one.”  In this case, Peter Pan provided all of the other Broadway “products” (translated = shows) out there to get massive impressions to a new audience.  I saw commercials for a bunch of Broadway shows, and, of course, the upcoming movie version of Into the Woods (I loved the trailer – did you?).  Because the telecast was live, those 9.2 million had to watch those commercials, which meant major exposure for the current Broadway season.  It will help move our needle . . . especially as the holiday tourist season is upon us (Note to self – when I have shows running during the next telecast – buy advertising).

 

It’s easy to pick apart telecasts like this.  Sure the star could have been a little more starry (expect that next year – but the star may not be as good), and sure it could have been a Sondheim show or a dark Kander and Ebb show, but at the end of the day, this telecast was a major win for Broadway.

And I can’t wait to hear what the next one will be.

 

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Comments
  • Becky says:

    It’s interesting that you saw commercials for other Broadway shows during the broadcast. I’m wondering if that was just in the New York area because here in Philly there were none. 🙁

  • Ralph Hickok says:

    If it’s to be a family audience, including children, it should not be telecast from 8 to 11 PM EST on a night when kids have to go to school the next day. It’s both too late and too long.

  • Ron Emerick says:

    I’ve actually never seen Peter Pan, so I probably would have watched had I been at home. But I had tickets to Pittsburgh Public Theater’s world premiere of Ed Dixon’s play, L’Hotel. Live theater trumps televised theater!

  • Carl says:

    I wonder if Sound of Music was more appealing than Peter Pan to families with older children or to people without children.
    9.2 million people is a lot of people and I’m very happy and excited that NBC is putting their efforts towards live theatricals events, but the three people in our apartment didn’t watch live because one of us goes to bed at 8.

  • Ken,
    When I read your headline I was about to delete the post — but because it was you, I read it — and you are a brilliant marketer. Bravo. Excellent and valid points. Keep doing what you’re doing, please!

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    Next year? South Pacifid. It has to be, as the remaining former Mary Martin musical :).

    Pan was a disappointment to me for several reasons–1st they did a lousy job of promoting it through regular media. My only indication of it prior to air date was a clip in the Macy’s parade and I thought it was for an upcoming revival, not a live telecast, so I only caught the end of it.
    I also dislike the PC bit of “Native islanders”-the whole idea of indians was as a child’s role-playing, amd that is cowboys or indians or pirates or mermaids. It is the lifestyle, not the raciality, that matters. Historically a lot of male settlers joined Indian tribes either permanently or for a time, viz Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, and Sam Houston among many.

    I am a bit irked with the hoary theatrical convention of having Pan be a girl, it just does not work right. It is nice that it is a star vehicle for the gals-too few of ’em around- but still winds up over cutesing it.

    But I think two major differences existed between Pan and Sound of Music. Carrie Underwood drew many American idol and country music fans , and it ws known the play was different from the movie so a lot of people tuned in to see the differences. Basically I thought the movie did better overall, trimming the reprises of Favorite Things thank God, and probably dumping the two Baroness songs from lack of ability on the actress’ part….though I wish they had dubbed those…adding the rote “I have confidence” was unneeded IMO.

    But I will look forward to seeing the next effort.

  • RobertHP says:

    So one reason 9.2 million is considered a failure, according to someone in advertising, is that NBC promised to reach the same massive audience they did with Sound of Music.

    “they anticipated and guaranteed twice that. So NBC owes everybody. Our clients are complaining and NBC is sold out. Pretty ugly.”

    A shame that they overextended like that (why would they think they’d get the same results with no star and a lesser-known — in modern times — play?), because the live musical is a concept I hope they move forward with.

  • fran says:

    Best ratings ever? Do Frozen the Musical next year. Plenty of time to write it. Big question is would NBC do a Disney show?

    • Jared W says:

      The better question is, would Disney (who owns rival network ABC) let them? And I’m pretty sure we all know the answer to that is “no.”

  • I think it’s been exciting to watch the live telecast evolve this year from last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next.

  • Christina Irwin says:

    I don’t care what anyone says. I absolutely loved Peter Pan Live! and I grew up with Mary Martin so I had high standards. Not whimsical enough, but I loved it. Also, the Native Islanders made more sense because Neverland isn’t really in America and the song sounded so good with the real Cherokee language. Ugh it was amazing. I hope the stars don’t get too much negative feedback because I just absolutely loved it. LOVED IT. And I am also a big broadway person so I had high standards. UGH IT WAS SO GOOD.

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