Will Live Streaming Cannibalise My Ticket Sales?


The prospect of in-person theatre attendances dropping as live streaming exerts its dominance may be of significant concern. With conferences, meetings and events opting to stream and connect people online more than ever before, it is natural to be reluctant of theatres going digital.

The worry for some is that live streaming performances may cause the sales of physical tickets to drop as many could prefer the comfort, ease and practicality of not leaving their home.

That being said, the outcomes of live streaming theatre performances are most likely to be the complete opposite of the scenario just mentioned. It is a lot more likely that the theatres who utilise live streaming will see a significant increase in their returns on investment (ROI).

A survey conducted by New York Magazine in 2017 found that 67% of respondents who watched a live stream then purchased a physical ticket to a similar event. This goes to show that the majority of audiences will develop an interest after viewing a live stream, if not beforehand, to attend the event in-person. There are several reasons for this.

Live streaming performances can build audiences’ anticipation for when theatres are finally allowed to reopen at their full capacity. This will particularly apply for theatre-goers and enthusiasts who will enjoy the ability to watch from their homes but will still remain the first in line to see performances live when normality will resume.

As well as this, live streaming theatre will reach out to wider audiences and generate interest in those who have never attended performance in-person: large households, single-parent families, people who feel anxious about fitting in. Many people also do not attend theatre due their geographical location – live streaming theatre could encourage a large proportion to make a trip to the theatre if they believe it is worth to do so.

It is also important to understand the expectation many people have. Experian’s study in 2019 outlined that the millennial population in the UK are increasingly spending their disposable income on ‘experiences’ as oppose to retail. Hence why many leisure and entertainment businesses are increasingly adjusting themselves to target more of this group of people.

A survey by NewsCred found 62% of the millennial respondents felt ‘more connected and loyal to a brand’ if they had online content.  This is exactly the expectation of digital presence that can help theatres stand out to a more diverse audience and encourage the physical attendance in the future.

Live streaming theatre will also help facilitate a stronger business-consumer relationship. Theatres will be able to receive instant feedback, review the comments of their viewers and get in touch with their audiences who sign up online for upcoming events.

Lastly, it needs to be emphasised that people attend the theatre for one main reason – the unique nature of the experience. Live streaming performances will not replicate or replace the experience. The larger audiences that theatres will gather through live streaming will eventually be reflected through more attendees in person.

No matter how interactive and engaging a live stream of a performance will be, people will seek to attend the next performance in-person if they are able to.