The Sydney Opera House has launched a streaming service to compete with Netflix — and it wants to join Hamilton by putting live performances online

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The Opera House

  • Sydney Opera House is launching a streaming service that it wants to compete in Australian and international streaming markets.
  • The service was developed in collaboration with New York-headquartered video software company Vimeo.
  • Head of digital programming Stuart Buchanan told Business Insider Australia the Sydney Opera House is joining a wider movement toward democratising live performance through streaming services.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australia’s iconic Sydney Opera House is joining the streaming wars.

It has launched a streaming service called, imaginatively, “Stream”, that it wants to compete with Netflix, Stan and the multitude of streaming services that have entered the Australian market.

While development of the service has been in the works for several years, the uptake of digital content by audiences during the pandemic highlighted demand for original live arts programming, head of digital programming at the Opera House, Stuart Buchanan, told Business Insider Australia.

“There’s an audience who have the appetite, they’re interested, but there’s a risk in them paying a lot of money to see something they’ve never seen before,” Buchanan said.

In 2020, the Opera House broadcast a digital season, From Our House To Yours, to engage with audiences while it was closed to the public.

The program was a massive success, Buchanan said, producing 200 digital works with more than 6.7 million views and downloads — half a million of those hours watched by a global audience.

Evidence of an international audience also presents the opportunity to showcase local talent and work.

“The work that goes on in the Opera House is incredibly varied,” Buchanan said. “It isn’t just high art.”

Content on offer on the streaming service is licensed globally, opening up access to a diverse international audience.

Buchanan also sees it as a new avenue to promote the Australian arts to this global audience.

“This is really an opportunity to support the broader arts sector through this initiative,” he said.

The new arts streaming service is available to access across TV, mobile, desktop and tablet, with 30 hours of programming across more than 45 performances and events available to watch on-demand.

New content will be announced monthly and subscriptions are currently free, with ticketed performances and events available to rent.

The upcoming streaming program will include livestreams of Australian musicians Jack Ladder and Ziggy Ramo, along with panels from the All About Women festival, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and Bell Shakespeare.

The move signals the cultural institution’s enthusiasm to gain a foothold in Australia’s lucrative streaming market, where 14.5 million Aussies forked out to access a TV subscription service in 2020.

“The advent of streaming platforms and the ability for people like the Opera House to develop [its] own platforms has only really been available in the past couple of years,” Buchanan said.

Cultural institutions invest in streaming

Since the debut of the filmed version of US musical “Hamilton” in 2020 on Disney+, discussion of the value of committing live theatre performances to digital platforms has renewed, as arts institutions have recognised the added value of providing access to the performing arts to those who may not have the financial means, or physical access to theatre and live performances.

Buchanan said one of the things the Opera House saw in its research was a huge percentage of audiences — 75% of those who watched — wanted to try something new by watching it online before they would commit to seeing it in-person.

There’s a risk for those who might not be regular Opera House visitors, in both time and money, in attending a live performance.

“There’s a little bit of ‘try before you buy’ in terms of that democratisation of access,” he said.

“Having both options is something people said they wanted.”

Historically, live performance agreements have limited how organisations can record and broadcast them.

But Buchanan says he thinks the advent of streaming has pushed arts organisations to update their philosophy — and get in line with the presentation opportunities now available.

“That’s an ongoing process with the theatre community and the live performance community,” he said.

Streaming no longer the disruptor

Australians have proven enthusiastic adopters of streaming services, with home-grown services capturing impressive market share from international competitors.

Last year, 14.5 million Aussies paid to access a TV subscription service, according to research by Roy Morgan.

Netflix has the most subscribers in Australia with around 11.9 million, followed by Foxtel with 5.2 million; home-grown service Stan holds its own with 3.3 million.

And News Corp-owned Binge, which launched last March at the outbreak of the pandemic and has managed to gain a decent foothold in the market, with 185,000 subscribers as of late last year.

While Netflix undoubtedly dominates the Australian market with a 57% share of subscribers, Aussies’ diverse viewing habits — as well as desire to access international content it has long been locked out from — bodes well for interlopers.

Source: Thanks