What's the difference between an online live event and just pushing play on some pre-recorded content?
It's an important question, because we all know the value of pre-recorded content we can access online. Netflix or Amazon Prime -- for about the cost of a sandwich -- give you access to infinite amounts of online content for every imaginable taste.
So why do people pay much, much more than that to be present for a single online show? It doesn't make logical sense for the BTS fans or Josh Groban fans or fans of a Broadway show to pay 20, 30, 50 or even $100 just to be there for an online stream.
But they do pay! Whether it's thousands of people to see Hershey Felder performing a one-man musical show or hundreds of thousands of people tuning in to the BTS concert, they’re willing to pay for the privilege..
Because successful online live events make it important to see it when it’s happening! Just like in real life, you want to be there. You want to have the experience alongside other people and have it mean something that you're witnessing it in real time. In order for an online live event to be truly captivating, there should be something about it that simply has to be live.
Sports has this formula figured out. Sports fans need to know the results of the game, but they could check that later on Sportscenter. They tune in or go to the game because they want to see it unfold, see how the game ended up the way it did. It's true that for theater or concerts, a similar show happens over and over again, but it’s still possible to make it worth being there live.
Connection. Access. Participation. Feeling the presence of other people in the room with you -- even if they're not really in the room with you! I'm a big Broadway fan, so if I had the opportunity to be virtually present at the premiere of a new show, I’d spend good money to do that. Or maybe it’s the debut of a new cast member or a new song has been added. Maybe there's a giveaway, or a contest or a fundraiser.
Maybe the audience has some actual influence on what happens in the show. Imagine if Josh Groban conducted a poll at the beginning of the show to choose the opening song after intermission. Imagine audience members reacting in a dozen different interesting ways — clapping, holding up a virtual lighter, giving a standing ovation, having their minds blown — and as the show goes on, patrons see the audience reactions on their screens in the form of a flow of emoticons and comments — and can join in, too.
In a way, producers of live entertainment have been dealing with this question forever. Why should I go across town to see something and pay a lot more money for it when I can watch a movie from the comfort of my home? And the answer is because it matters that it’s live. The fact that you're witnessing something that is happening right at this moment actually makes it more special, more exciting, more fun.
Online live events present a new form of that challenge for producers to figure out how to bring a different kind of urgency to what they produce, but when you start to imagine where this can go, what people will like and want, it’s not that hard.
Connection, access, interactivity. The excitement of being in a room with other people and being part of something that is happening right now, seeing it unfold before your eyes
In other words, make it something that has to be live. Make people want to be there. Our industry is already good at this, and people want to have these experiences online too, especially now.
So do that magic you do so well. Make online shows that people need to see live. Your fans and your bottom line will thank you.
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