Is your digital work reaching the right people?

When arts organizations embark on a new production, whether adapting an existing title for stage or screen, or creating a new interactive digital product, it is often assumed that the most creative thinking lies on the first steps.

What follows – the mechanics of launching a show through to the final presentation to the public – can sometimes lack momentum. Reflecting this creativity at an early stage in the final cast of a play is where the most exciting results are found.

Over the past two years, organizations have been looking for ways to diversify their revenue streams by monetizing their digital programs during these unprecedented difficult times. Artists, producers and marketers also had to work in innovative ways to reach wider audiences, planning multi-level distribution campaigns.

Reach the nation in their living rooms

Open Clasp, a female theater company based in the North East, imagined a new play just before the first confinement. The show, Sugar, spotlights three women who are “passing their time.” Carly McConnell, its creative producer, said: “Sugar is a state of the nation production, so it was important for us to reach the nation – people sitting in their chairs at home watching on their TVs. “.

Convinced it should have a home on BBC iPlayer, accessible to a national audience at a time when domestic violence was on the rise, Open Clasp approached The Space looking for a connection. The conviction paid off and it was hosted on the platform in the summer of 2020.

To celebrate, Open Clasp installed a plaque at one of the women’s centers involved in co-creating the characters in the play. “The plaques recognized the strength and resilience of the women who helped us create Sugar and trusted us to tell their stories in hopes of making change a reality,” McConnell said.

“There was great pride in our community to have stories of working class women, portrayed by talented actors, available across the UK on a national platform, in people’s living rooms.”

The importance of partnerships

This successful mission to align production with the BBC brand might have marked the end of a successful campaign for some. But the Open Clasp team knew an important part of their community would be left out: those to whom their art spoke most directly.

They were convinced that women at HMP Low Newton, who co-created the show, should be able to see it, as well as women with similar experience in prisons across the country.

So they formed a partnership with Wayout TV, an educational television channel operating inside prisons. As women did not have access to BBC iPlayer, Open Clasp worked with Wayout TV to broadcast to some 45,000 cells across the prison grounds, allowing women to see their lives reflected in Sugar as well.

While some of the more inventive approaches involve such free viewing plans, there are also opportunities for experimentation in the world of monetized content.

Exploring wider horizons

Ex Cathedra’s Christmas Music by Candlelight was a 2019 Space commission. His company’s managing director, Peter Trethewey, wanted the film to be available for future release, although it was not picked up immediately.

The main goal was to reach a wider geographic audience. This was achieved through their initial free online distribution. By removing some of the barriers to the public, people were able to try something new, risk-free, and the company had other opportunities in sight.

When theaters were forced to close due to the pandemic, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s group Really Useful launched a family-focused YouTube channel – The Shows Must Go On. The Space offered them content that we thought would appeal to their demographics.

Christmas Music by Candlelight was selected as part of their ad-based video on demand (AVOD), receiving a share of ad revenue. It garnered 70,000 views and global reach, with large American audiences as well as significant viewership in Canada, Australia and Germany.

In 2021, the company fulfilled a long-held ambition when Sky Arts rebroadcast the film on Christmas Eve morning.

Have a clear distribution goal

Having a clear distribution goal from the start has been key to the overall success of Ex Cathedra. This is something The Space always impresses on any company taking on a digital capture project.

But it’s also important to be realistic about income. The distribution fee they received was modest and, as Trethewey puts it, “we don’t expect to recoup the costs of making the film, so it was only possible with initial funding from The Space”.

Broadcasting is not easy. Opportunities to earn a large income are limited and competition for audiences is at an all time high. But with clear goals, forward planning, and a creative approach, it’s possible to get your work done by the right people at the right time.

Sarah Fortescue is Head of Distribution at The Space (Computational Arts).

This article, sponsored and contributed by The Space, is part of a series highlighting new ways to create and distribute digital content and exploring the wealth of new online technologies and platforms..

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