NBC May Break Even on Operacast : Television: Early returns are in for Monday’s live pay-per-view broadcast of The Met’s 25th anniversary.
Television’s first live pay-per-view opera Monday night will probably be a push financially, if projections made Thursday by the event’s producers hold.
NBC, which produced the telecast with partners Cablevision Systems and PolyGram Holdings, Inc., said last week that 35,000 to 40,000 people nationwide would have to buy a TV opera ticket to meet their projected “break-even” figure for pay-per-view income.
“Based on more than half of the cable systems (approximately 1,100) reporting in so far, we expect to meet our projected buy rate of .25%, or 35,000 homes,” Susan Green, NBC Cable vice president of business development and event pay-per-view, said Thursday.
Although NBC Cable would not confirm it, that projected rate apparently includes two scheduled rebroadcasts of the opera--at the original $34.95 price tag--on Sept. 29 and Oct. 6. The event featured performances by Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
According to a pay-per-view executive at another company, the word at a cable industry dinner Wednesday night in New York was that Monday’s numbers were indeed much lower than what NBC said the final tally will be. “The number I heard was 24,000 homes, which is a .16% penetration,” said the executive, who asked not to be identified. “That’s a disappointing number.”
NBC/Cablevision has a 10-year pact with the Metropolitan Opera for future pay-per-view productions. But until a cultural pay-per-view event attracts a wider audience, the jury is still out on whether the fine arts can find a niche in pay-per-view, which is currently dominated by sporting events and rock concerts.
Media analyst Tom Adams of Paul Kagan Associates pointed out that the total addressable universe for the Met telecast was between 14 and 15 million homes. On the other hand, “A big boxing match is usually offered to 19 or 20 million homes,” Adams said. “So there were a lot of cable systems out there, where opera is not a big thing, that obviously weren’t interested in (even offering) it.”
NBC Cable reported that the opera did best in major television markets where there was a heavy marketing and promotional push. Manhattan Cable, for instance, had a buy rate of .9%; San Francisco’s Viacom System did a .6%, and Cencom System in Los Angeles did a .3%.
“This is better than a good thing,” said Metropolitan Opera president Joe Volte, referring to the popularity of the show in major markets. “It’s a great thing. The quality of the telecast itself was such that we’ve gotten nothing but great word from our public and patrons.