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Live streaming helps one organisation reach millions of people

live streaming theatreIt started off as an experiment. Could a live theatre event be successfully simulcast live in cinemas around the UK? How would the audiences react? Was it financially feasible? These are just some of the questions that the National Theatre would try to answer with its pilot “National Theatre Live” (NTL) programme in 2009.

The New York Metropolitan Opera began live streaming of performances years before with great success. But no one had yet tried to live stream a theatrical performance on such a grand scale. The National Theatre’s mission is to share its work with as many people as possible. In creating NTL, they endeavoured to share with millions more people than they could physically fit into their theatres.

According to a study by NESTA, the first season of NTL was a rousing success. In that first year, NTL broadcast four live performances as planned, and added a fifth in response to public demand. NESTA used surveys to evaluate the relative impact viewing on a cinema screen had on the theatre experience. The responses indicated that eighty-four percent of audiences were excited because they were watching the performance live, even if they were seeing it in a cinema instead of in person.

More detailed analysis revealed that even in rebroadcasts of an event, the audience still felt connected because the presentation preserved all aspects of the actual production. And though cinema audiences did not have the same experience that they would in person, the result was an equal but different sort of experience.  David Sabel, Head of Digital Media said in the report, “[W]e have seen that it can be an experience of artistic merit, and it can honour the integrity of the work and have a significant connection with audiences – it is not second-class, but a different experience.”

In other words, it’s the next best thing to being there.

And in the years that have followed the pilot of NTL, the audience continues to grow. According to the National Theatre website, they broadcast a minimum of six productions a year. They have over 800 venues across the world. Five hundred of those are in the UK. And since 2009, over two million people have seen productions through NTL.

National Theatre’s application of live streaming is certainly on a grand scale. But even smaller businesses and organisations are using it to reach out to more people. Examples include companies live streaming to employees around the world, or religious organisations sharing their message with a dispersed audience. And since the inception of the NTL programme, live streaming has become even easier, more widespread, and more affordable for everyone.

If your organisation or business is interested in learning more about how to use live streaming, download our white paper How Live Streaming Can Help Your Organisation Reach More People. In the paper, you’ll read about NTL and four other case studies of successful live streaming. Also find out the seven key questions to ask of any streaming provider before you sign up for an account or sign any contracts.

Have you used, or plan to use live streaming to reach more people? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Oliver Burt

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