Opera streaming. The Vienna State Opera seeks a worldwide audience in classical music-loving markets via the internet.
It is probably one of the most unexpected, but at the same time most interesting cultural-political side aspects of globalisation: an American who has a Chinese television set at home can be transported live to the Vienna State Opera at the touch of a button on the remote control. At least if the latest online initiative of the Haus am Ring works out: a partnership is being sought with LeTV, a Chinese company that exemplifies the rapid economic leaps in the giant Asian country. The company behind it, LeEco, started with a sports subscription service - and within a few years has become a huge producer of consumer electronics, a Chinese internet provider and a platform for international classical music content.
And now, after buying US streaming provider Vizio for a slim two billion dollars, also a major player in the US television landscape, reaching 28 million households.
And an app of the programme offered by LeTV could become the Vienna State Opera, Christopher Widauer describes in an interview with KURIER.
Widauer is responsible for digital development at the State Opera - and thus, among other things, for the livestreams and the international cooperations in the digital field. He confirms that "classical content is very much in demand in China". The State Opera's streams would be sold there at the same conditions as everywhere else: 15 euros per individual stream, 150 euros for an annual subscription. And in view of the huge Chinese market and the equally huge American market, "that's already very interesting," says Widauer.
The internet and the plummeting production costs for high-quality video images offer an enormous new field of activity for the State Opera - and not only for it. It is certainly not alone in its international efforts. The best-known example of the new kind of international presence that opera houses can now find is the Metropolitan Opera in New York, which has long since had more audiences all over the world through cinema screenings than at its parent opera house. And it also earns good money.
The Vienna State Opera also already has "another full house online" with its livestreams, says Widauer: around 1000 subscription stream deliveries per event, each watched by two or more people, means a considerable number of additional listeners and viewers with the individual tickets. But "we are not competing for the audience, which has become very mobile," says Widauer." But also for the artists. And it's just as important for them as it is for us to be globally available on digital platforms. "And in this area, the State Opera is now "the benchmark".
In terms of income, this is not yet reflected - at least not in relation to the opera's total budget, which exceeds 100 million euros. But "in relation to the fact that there are no longer any significant DVD and CD sales, that the artists are also losing income here, and in relation to the fact that the TV stations have dramatically cut back their production, these figures are already interesting," says Widauer.
Through increased engagement in the USA, China and Japan (where the State Opera has just been on tour), "income is to be generated to cover production costs and provide a significant extra income for the artists". Admittedly, these markets cannot be "opened up at the push of a button". But "we have financed the technical investments through sponsors. The running costs are absurdly low compared to what television used to cost. And we also produce an incredible archive as a result. We've done 120 public and many hundreds of trial livestreams. That's a treasure that will have a completely different value in ten, fifteen years."
Soon the streams will be offered in a new format, "UHD HDR" - a response to the difficulty that "it's relatively dark in the opera, but the singers are very much lit."
The presence of high culture on the internet is "also of cultural-political interest", Widauer confirms. For the State Opera itself, this opens up the possibility of a hitherto undreamed-of worldwide presence: even a local stage company, comparable to a media company, now operates globally. There is no concern about self-cannibalisation among the audience: marketing activities are concentrated away from the German-speaking countries, where most of the audience comes from. "You have to be very careful with regard to ticket revenues," says Widauer. But in Austria, too, there are many people interested in streaming whose life situations do not allow them to come to the opera regularly for a variety of reasons. And they also cooperate with schools: "We can show young people: This is opera.
- Georg Leyrer | Kurier | 16.11.2016