The Wild Card

I talked in part 7 about how online live events work together with in-person events to be a supercharger to the business model of live event producers.

But there’s something else. Something that has the potential to re-align and disrupt the industry, but it’s also a big opportunity. I call it the Wild Card.

Right now, when we talk about online live events, we're imagining some well-filmed and possibly slightly interactive presentation of the events already on our stages today: concerts, plays, comedy routines, etc., and I think the future is very bright for all of those forms to be brought into the online live event format. There will be tweaks of course, maybe even things that are better about an online event, like close-ups or special effects or more access, but the online event experience of a play or musical or concert or comedy show will be very largely based on the experience you’d have in person.

The wild card is something else, something that hasn't been invented yet. It’s a live event made available online, designed from the ground up to take advantage of being an online event in a way that's never been done before. By definition, I don't know what this will be  but I know that when new forms, new media come along, there are always innovators that take them to a place that no one thought of before.

Bear with me as I give a totally made up theoretical example. And realize that whatever the real artists and innovators come up with, it will be better than this. 

Imagine there's a house -- it could be in the Hollywood Hills or deep in the Arkansas mountains. In this house, there’s a show that broadcasts online with a few characters, each with their own backstory. During every broadcast, the actors react to new plot twists and additions to the story. But here, some of the plot twists are chosen by the viewers. The actors respond to the viewers’ input, improvising the evolving story based on their characters’ backstories and motivations.

There’s so much you can do with this set-up. Maybe viewers can decide which characters or scenes to follow at any given moment. Some characters could develop fan followings, creating a new kind of celebrity. Perhaps famous guests pop in for cameos. And it all comes together in a unique story that gives the audience some control and authorship but is still highly curated and compelling.

Can you imagine something like that being popular? Can you imagine someone wanting to watch it time and time again? I can, and I'm not even good at this.

You don’t even really have to imagine it. It’s starting to happen already.  Gamers are putting down their weapons to attend concerts in Fortnite. Earlier this summer, the Geffen Playhouse created an interactive virtual illusionist show that began with a mysterious package delivered to your doorstep. These are glimmers of what’s possible. They push the boundaries of what it means to see a show, but it’s just a start. The Wild Card has yet to be played.

This kind of innovation in live events could create something bigger by far than anything we've got today in live entertainment  When you think about all the capabilities that online live events have — infinite reach, new levels of connection, access and participation — the potential for growth in the live entertainment audience is bigger than ever.

Maybe in five years, the biggest live entertainment producer in the world will be an organization that doesn’t even exist today. Or maybe today's leaders in live entertainment will be much, much larger, more financially stable and have a stronger base of support from fans and patrons because they fully embrace these possibilities. Or both! It’s not a zero-sum game.

Live entertainment is not facing a Napster moment. If done right, live entertainment is facing an innovation with two possibilities: winning or winning big.

 The only catch is that in order to win, you've got to play.

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