Live Viewership in an Increasingly Online World

The Tony Awards® Live Viewership Dip Versus the Tony Awards Social Media Buzz

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Almost two weeks have passed since Broadway’s biggest night of the season.  A heaping congratulations to all the winners, nominees, presenters, performers, and every single person who in some way, shape, or form makes this industry happen. The headlines on the night celebrated the big wins, the fashion, the speeches, and the late-night revelry.  

But then, as most people wrapped up their celebrations at their favorite diner (or with an Advil and a big glass of water on the nightstand), another headline started to break: “Tony Awards Live Viewership Drops By 14%”  

After a night of such joy, love, and support of the art form, the news broke that the Tony Awards experienced a double-digit dip in live viewership. Fans and folks working for Broadway’s success went from the high of celebrating industry excellence to worrying about what the next season will look like. Toasts turned to hand-wringing as the negativity of low live viewership bred pessimism from the industry’s biggest champions.

“Tony Awards Live Viewership Drops By 14%”  

The dramatic switch got me thinking…how important is live viewership? As a marketer, I completely understand the importance of live viewership for ad sales — more live viewers means more ad revenue. But live viewership is no longer the only barometer of success. We are firmly in an era of post-live content consumption.

Consider this:

  • Few pieces of broadcast television ever get the kind of live viewership we used to see.  
  • Almost two decades ago, the television industry started selling their ad space not based on live viewership, but based on the “C3 window” (three days post-live). 10 years ago it became a C7 window (seven days post-live). 
  • Now?  It’s about how many social impressions your content receives, which comes post-live.

“But live viewership is no longer the only barometer of success. We are firmly in an era of post-live content consumption.”

I chatted with a few folks in the industry who know social inside and out. Special thanks to Mike Karns of Marathon Digital, Jim Glaub and Rebecca Prowler from Super Awesome Friends, and Situation’s Content Group Director Phillip Hughes for their input in the content of this article. Some of the fascinating insights I learned from them illustrate my point:

  • General Tony Award content saw more views on their social content than total broadcast viewership (by more than 5x).  
  • One Best Musical nominee saw 67 million impressions on their social content the day after the Tony Awards.  I’m not a mathematician, but that sounds like a decent number to me!
  • Non-performance (but still Tony-related) content of another Best Musical nominee surpassed total online impressions (through shares, likes, and suggested content algorithms) than the performance itself.

In addition to providing insights into social media data and reporting, Content Group Director Phillip Hughes shared his thoughts on the importance of measuring impact outside of live viewership:

“Social media performance is indicative of the quality of the content, the enthusiasm of the fans, and the cultural relevance of the property. Social media is a valuable canvas to showcase the most impactful and compelling moments from the broadcast for the folks who can’t commit to watching the full award show. The Tony Awards social performance indicates that there is still a robust and engaged Broadway fan community, even if the live broadcast viewership doesn’t indicate that.”

There is so much we can prep ahead of time, capture in real-time, and syndicate after the fact that we can leverage paid spend and organic sentiment to push out beyond the core theatergoer who may watch live.  Broadway needs to break beyond the theater avid — and capturing and sharing moments from everyone’s favorite night on Broadway and sharing it wide can do that. What will Broadway’s version of the infamous Ellen Degeneres Oscars Selfie be?

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