Mister Beacon Episode #39

Beacons on Broadway

May 04, 2017

We learn how beacons are being used on and off broadway by The Shubert Organization, the largest theater owner on Broadway. Kyle Wright runs the data analytics and R&D function for Shubert and describes the ways in which beacons can make the experience better for the 13 million ticket holders each year that make up Shubert’s customers. Time Square is one of the most checked in places on earth. Wright is working on how to unlock the value in that. In addition to helping people get to their seats on time, facilitating the link between theaters and restaurants, we hear how Shubert is managing the challenge of getting visitors to use their apps and the partnerships that are helping them to monetize their beacon network.


  • Steve Statler 00:00

    At the Mr. Beacon podcast, we are in Dublin today at the Ticketing Technology Forum. And I'm really excited because quite often at these things, we end up talking with vendors about technology. But now we have something completely different. And I am speaking to Kyle Wright of the Shubert Organization. He is actually a user of all sorts of technologies, including Bluetooth beacons. So Kyle, thanks so much for talking with us. It's my pleasure. Can you start off just by telling us a little bit about Shubert and what you do?

    Kyle Wright 00:41

    Yeah, so we do a lot of things, but kind of the main bit is we own 17 Broadway theaters, and six off Broadway stages in New York City. And those are all tightly clustered around the Time Square area. And so kind of within our company, we have three big divisions. One is real estate, one is operating our theatres and licensing them to Broadway shows. And another is the ticketing division, which is managing the sales and fulfillment of ticketing for those theaters. And so kind of the way Bluetooth fits in all that is what I do is kind of run our r&d and data acquisition department that sits right between all three, as we think about not only the people who are in our theaters, but the people who visit the area. And we're kind of creating this environment of Times Square as an arena or a stadium. Because if you think about one square mile selling 13 million tickets are paid attendees a year, it's bigger than almost any professional sporting arena in the US. And we have restaurants and bars and shops. So it makes sense to think of it in that way. And so just to jump in from a beaconing perspective, we think of Bluetooth beaconing, and several other on premises technology within the Times Square area, as well as our theatres themselves as a really interesting way of helping facilitate people with wayfinding and creating unique experiences, and also acquiring information about the people who are in our Broadway arena and thinking about how we can monetize that with partners in the luxury space and the airline and travel space in the OTA space. And we found that, really, we're in the very early stages with it and the implementation. But we've early on found some really interesting partnerships with our sponsors around apps that already exist and how those beacons can speak to them and understand what's around.

    Steve Statler 02:20

    How many beacons do you have?

    Kyle Wright 02:23

    Yeah, so it's it's an ongoing process. We started out with just doing two or three theaters to kind of get the power of it and started working with partners like the GATT, which is a Google company, as well as a couple of food and beverage apps. We saw some limited success with that, and due mostly to the ubiquity of the apps themselves. But we saw benefit from a research prospective with our kind of luxury brand partners. So we expanded into currently read about projected ad. And I think we're about three quarters of the ways that implementation. And it ranges from being on billboards in Times Square to our actual physical theaters and other buildings that we own out on the Marquis. And the blast projection we did is we have about an 80% coverage of the Time Square area with our beacon network.

    Steve Statler 03:06

    A very valuable piece of real estate.

    Kyle Wright 03:09

    And we're just at the very tip of the iceberg in terms of figuring out how to how to work with that.

    Steve Statler 03:12

    So let's talk a bit more about some of those use cases you touched on because they were interesting. So one is Wayfinding. So helping people to get to where they want to get to.

    Kyle Wright 03:21

    As we think about, you know, especially from a visitor and domestic and international tourism perspective, people when they come into the Time Square area can be very easily overwhelmed with how many options there are. Even though it's a grid base, the way that Broadway cuts through can make it very confusing on how to find your theater. And we often have issues with late arrivals in shows that don't allow late arrivals. So we have to be very, we're trying to be more diligent and more helpful and allowing our customers to find their way quickly and efficiently to the theater that they're trying to get to, and understand the best place to go from a traffic perspective. And if you're driving in a parking perspective, and also thinking about where there are the best places to eat, then have the highest capacity and probably the best deals for pre theater and all those kinds of things. So as we know, when people are entering our arena, we can help them find those those activities to enhance their experience.

    Steve Statler 04:11

    So better experience getting people so that to the right place at the right time so they can actually engage in the event. And what are the apps are normally beacons need an app? What are the apps that are using your beacons?

    Kyle Wright 04:25

    right now we that's been our struggle. To be honest. You know, finding research partners that already have apps is a good way for us to make some money early on and show success. But finding our own app that has enough of a value for our customers to actually take the time to download has been tricky. We've tried a food and beverage app that was used is called nom nom as Italian based startup company that allows you to preorder it skip the line and have drinks delivered to your seat potentially but we never got that part figured out with our unions and our theatres delivered a seat part but we had some early downloads but we realized that people arrive at the theater with have very little time to spare and don't have time and they just didn't want to do it ahead of time, the value wasn't there. So what we've seen very early success with but only in a beta program is our which we're now rolling out the full production is an app that allows you to view closed captioning, if you are hearing impaired, have audio amplification for hearing impaired audio described for the blind or hard or visually impaired, and then also live language translation and dubbing that keeps pace with what's happening on stage using vocal recognition algorithm based with the script and this master sound mix. So because we have around 700,000 visitors per year to our theatres that come from non primary English speaking countries, we've already seen really early success with getting group and tour operators internationally to have their audiences download this before they come in, which helps us get app downloads, but also helps us understand more of the people who are sitting in our seats who bought in bulk, and we don't have information on.

    Steve Statler 05:55

    So that's really compelling functionality. That's not just a nice to have, that's like, essentially.

    Kyle Wright 05:59

    Viewing it as like kind of a base platform. And then from there, because the way we had worked with the company that developed it out of Tel Aviv called gala Pro, and we developed with the idea of being able to integrate other SDKs into their app and vice versa. So now we're layering on a food and beverage component and enhance digital experience components. So in addition to your play bill, there's more information about what's happening in the background that you can't do and print media. And we're adding more and more to it now that we have kind of a core base of functionality that we think is important to get more people and kind of varying degrees of where they are on their experience and age and all that to download and find this app useful. So the more apps we have, the more useful then becomes when they are entering the theater in that process in Times Square, and when they leave the theater in that process in Times Square.

    Steve Statler 06:43

    So it's a whole range of beacons that are in different places and multiple theaters on Billboard's and it's your app, but it's also third party apps. Can you expand a little bit more on the kinds of third parties that find that beacon real estate.

    Kyle Wright 06:58

    We actually learned this from the beacon provider we're working with is based out of Sydney, you can probably figure that out. But they had a group within Sydney that was very interested in purely understanding as a Financial Group, I believe, no airline, sorry, understanding how many people in downtown Sydney had this app. So we like Well, it's a very similar use case. And so we're kind of talking to travel companies, airline companies, credit cards, or high high value loyalty, credit cards are interested in understanding in a area with such a high foot traffic Time Square is the number one most checked in place on Earth, I think or it used to be number two now. And it's heavily a luxury audience that goes there now because mostly tourism, understanding how many people are there with those, be it airline or hotel gives you a better sense of where your people are, where your customers and patrons are going and how they're spending their time while they're visiting the city. So that's one big group from a third party. We're still trying to crack the nut on hotels and restaurants. Open Table, we haven't had any luck with kind of figuring out a partnership that makes sense. So that wasn't transactional enough, and frankly, was kind of higher end than what's around Time Square. So that's, that's an app we're trying to crack. We haven't figured that one out. But I think there's something there. Just given that people who see shows also go to restaurants and usually often in the same night. There's gotta be there's gotta be there there. We just haven't figured out how to connect those dots.

    Steve Statler 08:22

    I love the the airline app connection and the card banking card connection. That's fantastic, because those are compelling apps that people.

    Kyle Wright 08:33

    My two most used apps actually. So yeah, interesting.

    Steve Statler 08:35

    Very good. Well, Kyle, thanks very much. I really appreciate it fascinating input and that's the end of another Mr. Beacon podcast.

    Kyle Wright 08:45

    Thank you very much.