Would you watch Broadway reruns?

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a hotel sports bar in Minneapolis having my favorite meal of wings with a side of Coke.  My dining partner was a television that was actually in the booth with me.

A baseball game was on.

But there was something odd about the uniforms, the advertising in the stadium, and the facial hair of the players.

They were dated . . . by about a decade.

Since I didn’t remember taking a DeLoreon from the airport to the hotel, I knew there had to be a logical explanation.  There was.

I was watching a “rerun” of a baseball game from about 10 years ago.

Watching “classic” games, fights, matches, etc. has become a big thing.  ESPN spun off its own channel, called ESPN classic, to deal with the demand. And, of course, on top of generating revenue, the distributors of these games, fights, and matches are able to give their customers something to whet their appetites when they don’t have current programming to offer them (e.g. a baseball game during Christmas, or a heavyweight fight between heavyweight fights).

This is just an extension of what television shows have been doing for years, right?  Rather than deliver a new, fresh sitcom every week of the year, the networks do it 13-20 times and fill in the rest with reruns.

So why can we do that in the theater?  Why don’t we show re-runs?

PBS has been doing it.  But what about commercially?  What about a Broadway channel?  We’ve got radio stations that play Broadway all day long, thanks to Sirius or my favorite AccuRadio. What if there were a television version?

Where does the content come from?

That’s the tough part.

Lincoln Center has been shooting shows for its library for years. Could we figure out a way to license those properties for television?  Maybe we work out a deal where they are only shown X number of years after a show closes.  (How cool would it be to be channel surfing and stumble across the Broadway production of Chess?  Or Carnival?)

Has the cost of shooting a show gone down enough because of digital video to work this into a show’s budget?  Certainly the subsidiary rights value of a show would shoot up if it were on television around the world.

It’s a contracting nightmare, of course, because everyone is going to want a piece.  Frankly, all of our players are going to have to realize this is a long term, insurance of the industry play, not a get-cash-quick scheme.  And if major league sports teams can do it, I’m sure there’s a way to figure it out.

Because frankly, we have to start figuring it out.

Using video to help promote the theater is probably the most important “to-do” item we’ve got on our list.  It’s an essential part of marketing in the 21st century.

So we better get out of the 20th century.

Oh – and how many of you got the connection of the photo in this blog to the topic?  Hmmmmm?



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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.