- OnStage Editor-in-Chief
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While many enjoyed Broadway's first ever livestream of She Loves Me, many others were left in the dark, literally.
There had been massive publicity leading up to tonight's airing, especially since it was advertised that users would only have to pay a one-time fee of $9.99 to watch a Broadway show.
With thousands likely to tune in, BroadwayHD put the spotlight on themselves tonight.
And right from the beginning, there were issues.
Within moments of the opening curtain, users started complaining that they weren't able to login into their accounts, that the audio wasn't synced and a content error message would keep coming up where a picture should be (Pictured right).
The issue seemed to stem from users trying to watch it on various apps and devices such as Roku and Android tablets/phones. There also seemed to be a browser issue with Google Chrome and Safari. Many users complained of buffering issues where the picture would pause for moments before refreshing again.
There was also some confusion over the pricing. While many only had to pay the $9.99 fee to see the show, I saw that some Roku and other device users had to pay for a monthly subscription of $15.99 on top of the $9.99 to see the show. This part wasn't clearly advertised and left many confused and frustrated. Some just gave up and left.
One user exclaimed,
"I have people at my house to watch the show now!!!!! Can't make up for that!!! ridiculous!!! The show being available for 7 days does not help the situation at all. The thing is that I paid for something that is not working and the solution offer is not a solution. Very disappointed."
Later on the same user said,
"At this point, my guests are gone. No point. I do need to SPEAK to customer service but there is not a phone number to be found on your website. BTW< I STILL CANT LOG IN!!!!!"
But there were many others that didn't seem to have an issue watching the show.
One happy user said,
"The show was absolutely wonderful. I am a big fan of Jane Krakowski and Laura Benanti so seeing it live with this cast was fantastic. Yeah there was a snag in the beginning but once the curtain went up and the show started, I didn't have anymore issues streaming it. And it was the first live stream so I didn't expect it to be perfect. Awesome job BroadwayHD and great idea to stream live shows and I can't wait for the next one."
I took a look the comments section on BroadwayHD's Facebook page and if you were to poll the good vs. bad comments, it came out to about 50/50 so far. And while for those who had no issues watching it, it became the perfect theatre event they longed for. But when almost half your audience is reporting massive issues, if this was a litmus test of BroadwayHD's abilities, they failed.
To make matters worse they would only respond to panicked users with the same copy/pasted statement:
"We apologize for this technical difficulty. We should be back up and running now! Enjoy the rest of the show. If you have additional issues please contact email@example.com."
And then someone at BroadwayHD, very unwisely, posted a graphic boasting about how many cameras they have in the theatre, which led to this gem of an exchange.
Adding salt to the wound, BroadwayHD made sure to remind scorned users that they could still watch the show for the next 7 days(because the thrill of watching it live was gone by this point), unless they had purchased the $7.99 2-Day Rental package which She Loves Me won't be available on for another couple of months. The amount of different pricing this site has is staggering and confusing.
Was tonight a make or break night for BroadwayHD? Probably not. But ultimately they might have shot themselves in the foot with this. Given the draw of people talking about this, do not think for a moment that the folks at Netflix, Amazon and Hulu weren't watching. Given that they have the tech power to stream better and the funds available to work out deals with the producers and unions, don't be surprised if you start seeing streaming deals being made very soon.
I spoke with one employee at Amazon who told me that ideas for streaming shows opening in 2016-17 are already being discussed.
So all in all, if the great experiment was to see if live-streaming Broadway shows would generate interest? The answer is a resounding yes.
But if the experiment was to see if it could be done technically well over a mass amount of users? Well it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
Everyone in theatre knows that errors happen and in the theatre, errors can be quickly forgiven. But this was live TV, where errors aren't tolerated no matter if its your first or 100th broadcast. Tonight need to be perfect and it wasn't even close.