It’s not Star Wars or The Book Of Mormon, but it’s a start: The December 10 performance of off-off-Broadway’s musical two-hander Daddy Long Legs was performed before an audience 1,000 times its normal size when the show became the first to be telecast live over the Internet from a New York stage. Producer Ken Davenport said Tuesday that the presentation from his namesake 149-seat venue — including three repeats within 24 hours of the initial performance — was viewed by 150,055 people in 135 countries, among them Tanzania, Jordan and Fiji.
“Entrepreneurs have an acronym — BHAG, which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal,” Davenport told Deadline, referring to an expression coined by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their book Built To Last: Successful Habits Of Visionary Companies for something that will change the nature of a business. “My BHAG was 100,000 viewers. So this went beyond my wildest expectations.” He noted that the largest bloc of viewers live within commuting distance of the theater where the show is running. Yet 40 percent of them had not heard of Daddy Long Legs before the event.
Davenport — who wears multiple caps as producer, manager, investor and blogger — said he spent no money promoting the telecast beyond his own blog, although it was covered as news because of producers’ and unions’ historic resistance to any telecasting for fear of undermining ticket sales to the live event.
One surprise, he said, was the age of the streamers, which was 46.6 years old — two years older than the typical Broadway theatergoer. “I thought it would skew younger, that this would be the future audience,” Davenport said. “While all of us use social media to promote shows, the fact is, social media doesn’t sell tickets as much as we’d like. What it does sell is stuff — clothing, albums. But these numbers reinforced my belief that the Broadway audience not only wants, but craves, this. It should be happening everywhere, from Broadway to community theater.”
About 30 percent of the audience was over 60 and an additional 29 percent were 40 to 59 years old. Sixty-eight percent were women.
The performance was exceptionally well-photographed by two cameras stationed in the audience and a GoPro backstage. It was helped by the intimacy of both the theater and the musical itself, and by the nature of the show. “One benefit theatrical presentations have over concerts,” he said, “is that we do this eight times a week and it doesn’t change overnight. We had the team and a shot list but the bulk of the work happened day-of. We loaded in at 11, shot a 2 PM dress rehearsal so we’d have something in the can and then did it again.”
A post-performance survey answered by viewers who registered with Davenport’s site before the stream revealed that nearly one-third watched it more than once and that most — 62 percent — watched on laptops. Only 2 percent watched on Web-connected television.