Friday, February 28, 2014

What David Letterman has to do with Broadway Ticket Sales | The Producer's Perspective

Ken Davenport arrives at the wrong conclusion, I offer up a more realistic view.

What David Letterman has to do with Broadway Ticket Sales | The Producer's Perspective

Swing and a miss!

The television shows in California don’t seem to have any trouble filling their audiences with non paying customers. They are competing with nicer weather, theme parks, beaches and any other tourist attraction you might be able to think of. How do they do it? They created a critical mass. If you are a tourist interested in seeing TV shows being taped, then California, Greater Los Angeles specifically, was and is the place to go.

If you wanted to see a real live Broadway show, well, the critical mass was located in Manhattan, in the theater district. Nowadays, with “Broadway” shows having toured all over the country for years, two things have happened. It’s no longer as special to see a show on Broadway, and having gone to the well too often, even touring shows claim to struggle to achieve profitability, if the producers of these tours are to be believed. Killing two birds with one stone, as it were.

But then there is the Letterman conundrum. What was once too hot a ticket, now is distributed on the streets by Letterman Ladies, poaching potential Broadway theatergoers in their quest to fill the Ed Sullivan Theater for five shows a week. What should Broadway do???

Letterman tapes in the late afternoon, when there are no Broadway shows offered. Thinking that Letterman is taking away an audience is the wrong way to look at this situation. And besides, Letterman is the perennial also ran in the late night ratings. Why worry about Number 2? And now that the Tonight Show is back in New York, whatever shall we do?

Letterman’s audience is twenty years older than it was in the early nineties. They are aging out of clamoring for tickets to the show. Demand has melted away as the Letterman cohort melts into their senior years. Don’t worry about Fallon, he skews young. The young folks don’t buy full price Broadway tickets in any great amounts.

The lesson of Letterman is not that he is utilizing Letterman Ladies to steal the Broadway audience. The lesson is that when your audience doesn’t grow, and ages out of attending your shows, demand dries up, and it’s then time to start looking at the end of the line.

Don’t worry about TV shows comping out small studios at times that you don’t even have shows. Worry about growing your audience, so that with the passing of time, you have passed the torch onto a new generation of paying patrons.

Since this is exactly what Broadway is not doing, maybe the Letterman Ladies would better be understood to be more akin to the Ghost of Broadway Future, revealing in a not so cryptic way what awaits Broadway.

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