UKTN to Stage World's First Trial of PAY-PER-VIEW Theatre

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All the World's a stage with announcement of plans for Pay-Per-View Theatre.

Spending a night in front of the telly no longer has to mean flicking through hundreds of channels, only to find there's nothing decent on. Imagine clicking on the remote control but what appears isn't yet another reality TV show or brainless Hollywood blockbuster but The Producers, Mary Poppins, the latest West End, Broadway or local fringe play, whatever takes your fancy. And all in the comfort of your own home.

UK Theatre Network - the company behind the UK's premiere theatre web-service - has today announced plans to produce the world's first pay-per view theatre.

A simple application of 21st century technology on an age-old industry, pay-per-view theatre has the potential to revolutionise the UK - and global theatre. By effectively opening up the viewing of any production to a global audience, the concept will have a massive impact on programming; scouting; audience outreach; accessibility; variety; and, most importantly, on investment in UK theatre through the huge potential to increase box-office receipts.

Pay Per View will walk hand in hand with another revolutionary theatrical concept, Thirty-Second Theatre. Under this scheme, productions will be able to advertise themselves on an international platform using edited clips much like a movie trailer. This new approach to advertising can only have groundbreaking implications, both for the financial prosperity of UK theatre, and the choice offered to the paying public.

UKTN'S PAY PER VIEW THEATRE - A STEP BY STEP USER?S GUIDE:

1)     Review the forthcoming events Calendar

2)     See a 30 second advert for your chosen production

3)     Read a review of the production

4)     Follow links to discover details of performers including cast biographies

5)     Pre-pay and reserve an online seat

6)     View using a PC or Mac or Video IPOD

7)     Log on to Online Forums for further Discussion

8)     Web message the cast and get an exclusive insight into the production

PAY-PER-VIEW THEATRE: THE IDEA.

This is all the brainchild of actor Douglas McFarlane, who also co-founded the independent film network Shooting People, and has now built a regional team of film producers, directors and camera crew to align with theatre reviewers, interviews and presenters to produce high quality entertainment with a theatre focus.

Pay-per-view theatre is a simple application of an old concept on an age-old industry. If successful, however, it will have massive implications - and most likely, change the face of theatre dramatically.

Using technology already successfully trialed on film download websites and online sports streaming, the UKTN pay-per-view service will allow users to logon and view the latest play either live or recorded.

The cost of each production will be dependent upon the uptake of the service. Initially each production will require a few thousand pounds of up front investment - however as the project's profile grows, this figure will be quickly reduced.

The hope is to roll out these services initially to new writings and fringe work, before targeting the regions, West End and finally New York's Broadway theatre, with the rate of progress determined by security; piracy; rights & permissions.

"In short, this could be the best thing to happen to UK - and even global - theatre in a long, long time," comments McFarlane. "For the first time, theatres will have the ability to reach out from the physical limitations of the auditorium - and tap into a global audience. While nothing can ever replace the thrill of live, up close, in-the-flesh theatre; this is the first time that an alternative has ever been provided - giving theatre-lovers the opportunity - and the means - to enjoy their passion any place, any time.

AND THE IMPLICATIONS - What will PPV mean?

FINANCIALLY

Pay-per-view theatre could potentially extinguish the biggest threat to our theatres infrastructure.

A recent report from the Theatres Trust and Society of London Theatre put the estimated cost of refurbishing 40 West End theatres at ?250 million.

The revenue generated from a successful production could extend to millions globally. Productions will be free from logistic and geographical restraints and the conventional catchment area of theatres will no longer apply -PPV could herald an explosion in national and international theatre.

FOR AUDIENCES

Access: PPV theatre will be able to reach a wider audience than ever before. Theatre-lovers on Orkney need not have to travel to the mainland; elderly people can enjoy a West End production without having to leave their homes.

Development: Whereas ticket promotions and initiatives have been criticized in the past for merely attracting larger numbers of the middle class demographic, instead of attracting a wider audience, pay-per-view has the potential to succeed where the government and major companies have failed.

Exclusion: PPV opens the portal to a wider audience spectrum. It will throw any notions of social exclusion out of the window - with preconceptions of theatre as an elitist past-time obliterated - giving people from every class, race or creed the opportunity and the motivation to enjoy theatre at any time.

With the onus no longer on theatre spaces to accommodate large numbers of people, the dynamic will change, and excess demand will always be satisfied.

FOR PROGRAMMING

PPV will benefit theatre directors and programmers:

Directors can approach programming idealistically, picking and choosing from the populist dramas; to the big name showstoppers; to the risqu-avant-garde fringe productions that otherwise may not have had a chance, without the risk of alienating one audience. Rather, they can entice an entirely new audience in.

What is true for programmers is equally true for playwrights - rather than catering to the populist masses, aspiring - and established playwrights - will be able to write the play they want to write without the overriding fear of ticket-sale disaster.

THE DOWNSIDE

Needless to say, there will be issues that will need resolution - piracy; copyright; performer's rights to name a few. However, these must be approached in the context of the massive benefits for the industry that pay-per-view has to offer if the industry is willing to go forward boldly and bravely.

Get ready for 2006 ! The year that theatre will come alive!

***INTERVIEWS AVAILABLE WITH DOUGLAS MCFARLANE, EDITOR OF UK THEATRE NETWORK ***

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Douglas Mcfarlane

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