Wiener Staatsoper live stream : a revolutionary live opera experience

So-called traditional nay ‘old-fashioned’, classical music isn’t at lead regarding new media :

I love opera and I confess I have been using a lot digital technologies and social medias.  As a digital power user, I must acknowledge that opera and classical music are not the fields where innovation regarding new technologies thrives the most. Still, benchmarking, browsing, going to concerts, I found that at least many a classical institution has built a presence on major social networks (twitter, facebook, youtube but also on pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr) to broaden their audiences (reaching new prospects) or strengthen and enhance relationship with existing audience (see for instance the benchmark I made on French Lyric Institution). For opera houses, it’s a both a good point and beginning!

Facebook and twitter : Top 10 French Lyric Opera house

Facebook and twitter : Top 10 French Lyric Opera house

So I must acknowledge my disappointment when I noticed the poor presence of one of my favorite opera house (nay my favorite), Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper in German) on the digital medias. Think that Facebook has been plugged on Wiener Staatsoper’s website pages only very recently in late 2012.  I was mourning not to find an official account for Staatsoper on Twitter, while all the major lyric institutions are making inroads (see the article dedicated to Twitter and Facebook ranking of Opera houses).

Wiener Staatsoper Live Am Platz

Yet the wiener Staatsoper did innovate in the field of opera ! Stehplätze (standing room), digital archives of performances and outdoor lives are good examples of the innovation spirit of that lyric institution. All that features that may seem now commodized hold a strong tribute to the Wiener Staatsoper. To evoke only the opera outdoor lives, think that the Wiener Staatsoper has been offering live outdoors performance for free since 2009 when summer and fall pour their weather jewels onto the city. Indeed to celebrate its 140th anniversary, it had the revolutionary idea to broadcast live performance on a large 50 m² video screen on the Karajan Square, next to the very Opera Building (see my post on that if interested), in order to reach out broader audiences.

By a by the gods of opera have been granting my wishes !

Strange. Etrange, seltsam, strano ! Why does the Wiener Staatsoper lag behind regarding social networks whereas it belongs to the greatest opera houses in the world? There might be something wrong

Whatever, gods of opera may have listened to my mourning : a few weeks ago, in a row, I noticed  Staatsoper granted us with a Google+ fan page and a brandnew twitter account in September. It pleased me even if all these new things have nothing extraordinary. At least, this major opera house had been starting bridging its digital gap with the Metropolitan Opera. But for sure there was no waouh effect about that :( .And suddenly, a few days ago like a lightning coming from a storm worthy of the Flying Dutchman, a big big big surprise arose: a brand new digital streaming offer (Wiener Staatsoper live stream) with the most innovative screen live experience I have seen in the world of classical music !!

home page of the new live dedicated portal of the Wiener Staatoper

home page of the live dedicated new portal of the Wiener Staatoper

Wiener Staatsoper live stream : a revolutionary live screen experience !!

On late October 2013, the Opera house announced that the world will be able to watch a selection of performances from the Wiener Staatsoper via a very high-quality live stream.  Called Wiener Staatsoper live stream the offer is very simple to understand: for a given fee, anybody in the world can watch either live or on-demand audio and video streams from the streaming platform of the Wiener Staatsoper.

These streams can be received on any compatible computer connected to the internet. The live streaming can be thus watched on any television or beamer connected to a computer. Note that if you have a Samsung Smart TV (generation after fall 2012), you can install the dedicated free live streaming app and view both on-demand and live streams with this Smart TV app. You may notice that I didn’t mention mobile phones or tablets. Indeed, at least in the first release of the service, it won’t be possible to watch live or on-demand streams on a mobile device. it’s not that big an issue as mobile and tablet can be used as a second-screen as we will see it later.

What is the content offered by Wiener Staatsoper live stream?

2 kinds of programs are proposed:  real live performances and on-demand programmes.
Live stream is an audio or a video transmission of a performance in real time
. Such streams cannot be stored and can only be viewed once. People living in a time zone very different from Vienna’s won’t have to wake up in the night if they don’t want to see the live performance! Staatsoper will provide them with time zone delayed broadcasts.  User has simply to define a time zone in which he or she wishes to receive the ‘live streams’ when creating his or her user profile in the dedicated portal.

Seven live performances have been scheduled for 2013: the first live was broadcast on 27 October 2013  it was the so typically Viennese Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Another six performances will follow by end of the year: a new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute on 27 November, Tristan & Isolde (Richard Wagner) on 13 December, Rossini’s La cenerentola on 27 December, the ballet The Nutcracker (Tchaikovsky, choreography Rudolf Nureyev) on 28 December, Beethoven’s Fidelio on 29 December, and Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus which is the operetta traditionally performed on New Year’s Eve !  There are plans to stream about another ten performances by the end of the 2013/2014 season. The live streaming programme and subscriptions for the new season will be announced at the presentation of the 2014/2015 opera and ballet season.

The second, of course of course there is also some kind of VOD service with which anyone can watch other non-live performance on demand. An on-demand stream works on the same principle as a live stream. The main difference is that the audio/video content is not transmitted live.  The VOD stream can be accessed at any time within a period of seven day after purchase, but like the live stream, it cannot be saved nor downloaded on the device used. Contrary to a live stream, an on-demand stream has pause, fast-forward and rewind features!  The catalogue of VOD streaming will be enlarged progressively.

What’s the price of such an offer ?

The live stream of an opera or ballet performance from the Wiener Staatsoper will cost € 14 while a VOD programme is priced € 5. The payment system on the streaming portal is easy-to-use and secure worldwide. When I went to my account, I noticed that one can a 15% discount if you buy at least 4 streamings coupons.

an opera or a ballet live is priced €14

an opera or a ballet live is priced €14

The Wiener Staatsoper live stream service is not free ! Fortunately, as indicated by the officials, Staatsoper wanted to send a strong international message that art on a digital platform can also has a value and therefore must be paid for accordingly!  Opera productions are not a commodity for sure! This fee-based live streaming programme enables Wiener Staatsoper to gain new revenue streams for both the opera house and its artists.

A focus on the user experience !

The live as you were in the very venue !

To produce pictures & sound of top quality eight HD cameras and digital video & audio studios working with state-of-the-art technology are used. Thank to the technologies used, streams can be transmitted in different level of quality (up to full HD quality) depending on the user’s internet connection.

Besides, viewers are able to choose between two perspectives at any time: an overall view of the stage or a live-edited film of the opera or ballet performance. On a Samsung smart TV, one can use the remote control to select functions such as perspective (full stage or live opera film) and picture quality (in three steps depending on internet connection).

Live streams will start 30 minutes before the performance. Viewers will be able to see a synopsis of the opera being streamed, as well as pictures of Vienna and the famous Ringstrasse boulevard, to access some discussions with opera stars and information about the very Viennese lyric Institution. Staatsoper will also be transmitting an introduction to the performance in English and German before each live stream. Depending on the production, there will be one or two intervals of exactly the same length as in the opera house itself. During the intermissions, like in the simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera in movies theatres, viewers will be offered back-stage impressions, visitings of performers, taste of the atmosphere in the interval rooms!

The very streaming portal www.staatsoperlive.com offers also an extensive programme with portraits of the artists, interviews, synopses, background texts, etc. This streaming site is available in German, English, Turkish, Korean and Japonese!

A second screen experience

On top of that, a very nice second screen experience will be offered !  If there was already some second screen experiences in classical music, I think it’s the first ever of this kind and importance in the world of classical music. Indeed, in addition to the stream offer, viewers will also be able to receive synchronized subtitles of the performance on their tablets or smartphones (android & iOS platforms only) thank to an application called the “Wiener Staatsoper Second Screen App”.  Subtiles will be only in English, German, and Korean, but other languages will come soon (I hope French will be available J).  From mid December, the synchronised score of the performance will also be transmitted in addition to the subtitles (I dreamed of that !!!!)

Wiener Staatsoper Second Screen App can be used while watching a stream to enhance live experience

Wiener Staatsoper Second Screen App can be used while watching a stream to enhance live experience

A second app is offered to enhance customer streaming experience  the “Wiener Staatsoper Program Booklet App” can be downloaded free of charge from both Google Play  (Android platform) and App Store (iOS platform). This app offers digital multimedia programme booklets (€ 2.69) for the performances being streamed. Digital version of programme is less expensive than printed ones as printed programme are usually sold € 4 or more (as I remember :)

'Publications' is the Application of Wiener Staatsoper that allow to buy digital and multimedia programmes

‘Publications’ is the Application of Wiener Staatsoper that allow to buy digital and multimedia programmes

Some strategist thoughts  on the new Wiener Staatsoper live stream

Will this live stream cannibalise current audiences in Staatsoper ?

I do not think so for several points.
a) there will be a limited numbers of live streams (7 in 2013, 15 announced for the 2014-2015 season.While there are more than 300 performances a year in Wiener the Staatsoper !)
b) it is not a question of price :  people paying for top category seats (70 € to a 230 € ticket ) will  continue to go the very auditorium. Their consumptions are quite unelastic to the price. Besides, cost-conscious viewers won’t be that interested because in Vienna State opera house, audience can experience live for €3 or €4 thanx to the fantastic standing tickets. Indeed, in the Wiener Staatsoper, there are 1709 seating room tickets and 567 standing area tickets (Stehplätze in German, if you don’t know the stehplätze, please feel free to read this post I wrote a few months ago). I don’t imagine Viennese people rushing on this digital offer and if so, it won’t be a pain for the opera house because it will gain 14 € instead of 3 or 4 € ! Moreover, this standing area tickets are also mainly purchased by tourists that would will not rush of that offer neither at least when in Vienna.
c) This offer is clearly aimed at opera lovers  living long away from Vienna who thus cannot attend to live performance as they would like to :) . Indeed, for us, poor opera-nuts living more than 2000 miles from Vienna, if we want to enjoy divine cast and productions of Staatsoper oper we have to go there in holidays, to book a plane an hotel to see, such a digital offer is just marvelous. You could object that opera lovers could already buy Staatsoper’s DVDs. Therefore the Wiener Staatsoper live stream could cannibalize its dvd sales. Not agree, because but it roughly the same margin for the Wiener Staatsoper. Moreover opera lovers will not trade-off between lives and VOD/DVD because live is live and live is all magics !!!! Live streaming and DVD/VOD don’t meet the same requirements for an opera lover.

The choice of web TV instead of movie theater

Contrary to the ROH or the Met, Wiener Staatsoper seems to have chosen to distribute its lives via a ‘web-platform’ (in the very households) and not via movies theaters distribution networks. It sounds great as there are already many competitors on that distribution channel (Royal Opera House, The Metropolitan Opera, Opera de Paris, La Scala di Milano, etc…)

I believe the streaming offer of the Staatsoper could impact strongly the opera in cinema movie business. Think of the price of the live : €14 ! When you compare this fee to the price of a live simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera or Opera de Paris….it’s half the price. In cinema theatre movies, opera lives are often priced around € 28 (if bought singly)…So for a much lower price, if you have a nice home video system a good internet connection, home live opera experience could be much better than in cinema:
- you can watch opera live in family or with friends (no need for each viewer to pay a ticket like in cinema, the fee is shared and easily amortized),
- each member of the audience could have the second-screen experience he or she wants (language, text subtitle or score
- everybody could share immediately feeling after a tenor’s high C or the sublime pianissimi of a soprano without having to wait the applauses :)

Strong impact of lives in other opera houses

Digitalisation has been fostering globalization and inevitably the World of classical music cannot be isolated from that. With digitalization the very culture market has become more and more competitive even regarding live experiences.  As I already written it, we can trade-off between between going to see local opera productions in our near theatres or experiencing live top-of-the-notch opera performances of the most famous institutions in movies theatres or on TV channels or webTV.

Line_for_standing_area_Wiener_StaatsoperI have become a frequent traveler to Vienna to enjoy incredible casts and programing of the Staatsoper. I’m used to spending at least seven days a year in Vienna mainly for attending live performances in Staatsoper or Volksoper in stehpläzte (standing rooms).  When you take into account the flight price and accommodation costs, you end up paying roughly € 45 for a top of the notch production with incredible sound & sight conditions. On top of that the very queuing is also fascinating sociological experience.  Even with this digital offer, I would say this other will never replace a live in the very walls of the Vienna opera house. The Stehplätze attract all the generations: from the tattooed young girl to the oldies and a true solidarity and even strong friendship can emerge from all these hours spent to get a ticket. I will also always remember for instance that queuing for Eugene Oneguin in April 2013, after 3 hours of wait, around 9 AM  the early birds were offered a coffee by the Opera administration of the behalf of Mister Dominique Meyer (the director of the StaatsOpera).

That’s the magics of Vienna ! And I found more than a little bit of Magics also in this new digital experience but I will continue to go to Vienna as I do. This digital offer simply gives me the chance to be closer to the Wiener Staatsoper. I will be watching more live performances that I could do until now as I won’t have to fly to see my favorite productions.

The Wiener Staatsoper live stream offer will not cannibalize my live consumption of opera in Vienna but it will certainly impact my live consumption of other opera houses. Living in Lille (a hour from high speed train from Paris), I  guess I won’t subscribe any longer to Opera de Paris and focus on my local Opera houses (Lille and Bruxelles)  and now staatsoperlive


Licence Creative Commons “Staatsoper live stream : a revolutionary live opera experience” by Ramzi SAIDANI is under terms and conditions of the licence Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 France


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About Ramzi SAIDANI

Ramzi SAIDANI is fond of classic music (abooove all opera) and new technologies. He particularly likes digital, the web, Puccini, Massenet, Domingo, Alagna, Netrebko & Gruberova (Grubi for the ntimes). He works as digital marketer and strategy consultant while studying lyric singing with Pierre VANHOENACKERE in Tourcoing Conservatory. He is also president of the Association Cavatine et Rondo (dedicated to lyrical music promotion) and he wrote a book of short stories ”Nouvelles Russes”, in which of course music play a major role :)

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