How the SVOD service BroadwayHD is making Broadway shows accessible to everyone

BroadwayHD founders Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane are the first to admit that their subscription video on demand service cannot replace the experience of going to a theater to see a Broadway show. Still, for all of the pleasures that Broadway provides, there’s plenty of painpoints for audiences, including convenience and price.

For $169.999 a year – or, the price of some tickets for a single Broadway show – BroadwayHD gives at-home audiences access to shows like On the Exhale, Oklahoma, Present Laughter, and Gypsy, among many others. For theater enthusiasts, BroadwayHD is the next best thing to attending in person, and for Comley and Lane, that’s enough.

With the service continuing to grow, we caught up with Comley and Lane:

Found Remote: Nothing will replace the experience of seeing a show in person, but how does BroadwayHD at least give people a taste?

Comley and Lane: Nothing will ever replace going to a Broadway theater to see a show in person, but we believe Broadway is for everyone. BroadwayHD is bringing down the barriers of geography, economics (an annual subscription to BroadwayHD costs less than a pair of house seats to a Broadway show), and barriers of physical limitations (we are adding closed captions to our on-demand library). BroadwayHD records shows with three to fourteen high definition cameras, so in addition to the view from the best seat in the theater, we can add aerial shots and close ups. BroadwayHD’s technical directors enhance lighting and sound guaranteeing the experience is the highest quality digital picture and sound while preserving the integrity of the artistic vision of the actors and creative team. BroadwayHD is a gateway to Broadway, we are providing access to high-caliber theater, creating a global community of theater lovers.

FR: What type of insights have you gathered from what, when, and how people are watching shows?

Comley and Lane: We launched BroadwayHD almost two years ago. Our subscribers can now stream one of the 190+ titles available on-demand through BroadwayHD.com, Chromecast, and BroadwayHD’s Roku, AppleTV, iPad, iPhone and Android mobile apps. We are constantly adding content, new shows, and new layers of technology. Everyone understands the convenience of streaming and watching shows on demand, what we’ve learned at BroadwayHD.com is that having 24/7 access to a library with the best Broadway productions allows experimentation. People that would only buy tickets to musicals are watching Shakespeare during breakfast. Serious drama fans are binging on musicals for the weekend. We have learned that from the comfort of their home viewers will go outside their habitual zone of entertainment – it’s all about discovery and that is exciting.

FR: Have you considered an ad-supported model versus a subscription one?

Comley and Lane: We are opposed to the idea of cutting into the show to add commercials but we are open to new opportunities such as a front title credit for a sponsor; however, at this time we don’t have plans to consider an ad-supported model.

FR: What is the process like for selecting shows to host and how do you approach producers with the opportunity?

Comley and Lane: When selecting shows to live stream and record for our on-demand library, we look for shows we think our audience will enjoy, and resonate with people from all over the world. It all starts and ends with good storytelling. Before we launched BroadwayHD, it was challenging to describe because it was just a concept. As we move toward our second anniversary, everyone can just go to www.BroadwayHD.com. The quality of the website is amazing, people can easily navigate through the site to find shows, there is no buffering lag, and the quality of the video is excellent. We don’t have to convince anyone that we are capable of making their show look good on video, they can see the beautiful digital captures we have done already. Our “resume” is online for everyone to see at www.BroadwayHD.com.

Most recently, we captured Broadway’s “Present Laughter,” starring Kevin Kline in his Tony winning performance as Garry Essendine. Kate Burton, Kristine Nielson and Cobie Smulders join him in a spectacular and hilarious performance. We felt it was important to capture this play in particular for several reasons. First, to immortalize Kevin Kline’s Tony-winning performance; second, to make sure audiences all over the world were able to enjoy this star-studded cast; and third, because the limited engagement is about to close, and it deserves to be preserved. The revival will be available for on-demand viewing on BroadwayHD.com this fall, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

FR: Broadway is enjoying more success than ever. How will this help fuel BroadwayHD’s growth? 

Comley and Lane: Broadway is booming! The diversity of shows onstage and the diversity of the actors and artists bringing those shows to the stage is inspiring. There is truly something for everyone on Broadway. The increased interest in Broadway creates greater demand for BroadwayHD.com because we can extend the reach of these shows to the global audience.

FR: What’s your favorite show of all-time? 

Lane: I love “Gypsy,” its a classic musical. And the new play, “On the Exhale” is a timely and gut wrenching drama. Both “Gypsy” and “On The Exhale” are available on BroadwayHD.com

Comley: And I love “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only,” which you can watch on BroadwayHD.com. I won my first Tony Award for that show and to be able to relive it and share that show with people that missed it is really special.

Adam Flomenbaum

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