The Silicon Review
“At BroadwayHD, we have a focus on diversity in our digital content. I work hard to ensure that women, the LGBTQ community, and diverse and international communities are represented in the works that we acquire for the service.”
BroadwayHD is an online streaming service company. It records and distributes live theater performances and previously recorded theatrical productions through its platform. The company is on a mission to promote and preserve live theatre, extending the reach of Broadway and Broadway-caliber shows to anyone, anywhere.
BroadwayHD was founded by Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley in 2015. It’s headquartered in New York, NY.
Stewart F. Lane, BroadwayHD CEO and Co-Founder, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Q. Who do you look up to for inspiration or mentorship?
I have had the good fortune to have two remarkable mentors in my life. One was my father, who taught me general business practices and investing, and the second was the legendary theater impresario, James M Nederlander. As he was known, Jimmy taught me about the business of showbiz and was my partner in the Palace Theater until he passed away in 2018. Both of my mentors are gone, but they did see the seeds of my BroadwayHD business. Digital capture is the recording of a stage show in real-time in front of an audience. The first digital capture that I was involved with was ‘The Will Rogers Follies’ in 1991 from The Palace Theater. Both Jimmy Nederlander and my father saw the value of extending the life of the show past the four walls of the theater and this concept became the nexus for BroadwayHD.
BroadwayHD is an entertainment SVOD service making Broadway accessible to the world through AppleTv, Chromecast, Roku, BroadwayHD on Amazon Prime and the web at www.BroadwayHD.com The BroadwayHD streaming platform, which offers subscribers unlimited access, 24/7, for only $8.99 per month or $99.99 annually, which is approximately the price of a single ticket to see a show. At present, between five and ten new titles are added every month, ranging from musicals and dramas to comedies and Shakespeare classics. This also includes commentaries, introductions, and behind-the-scenes documentaries.
BroadwayHD is the aggregator of recorded live theater, preserving the past of this art form and the technological innovator for its restoration and digital transformation to be enjoyed worldwide and restore theater arts and their impact on the national economy. BroadwayHD’s global facing content will keep the American musical theater, performing arts, and Broadway shows at the forefront as the pinnacle of live entertainment worldwide.
Q. How do you keep your team motivated despite conflicts and obstacles?
By combining a team of seasoned Broadway insiders with digital marketing analysts and technology experts, BroadwayHD has been nominated for a Webby for Best Streaming Service. BroadwayHD has partnered with live theater producing organizations worldwide to promote and extend the reach of their brands by streaming their shows on-line.
The digital theater experience is the gateway to the live stage experience. That said, BroadwayHD is serving the existing Broadway fan and cultivating the next generation of Broadway fans. The Broadway ticket buyer's demographic is 40 plus, while the majority of BroadwayHD subscribers is 18 to 34 years old. I believe that the BroadwayHD team reflects the online audience's diversity and listens, predicts, and provides the service and content that they expect.
Everyone who works at Broadway HD believes in the mission of making Broadway shows accessible to a global audience. We're bringing down the entry barriers, whether those barriers are economics, geography, physical limitations, and streaming to an underserved fanbase on a user-friendly technology platform. Believing in the core mission of making theater accessible to everyone is the glue that keeps the BroadwayHD team together.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Know what you are selling and who you are selling it to, and what they are willing to pay. In other words, understand the market that you are targeting. It’s almost impossible to imagine life without streaming technology. It’s become pervasive in every part of our lives - we stream TV, books, music, and videos to our friends and family. But what happens to industries that rely on live audiences and in-person attendance? BroadwayHD took on that challenge in 2015, long before the pandemic, and found a global appetite for the stage to screen Broadway shows.
Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?
Winning the Tony Award for Best Musical for La Cage Aux Folles in 1984 was a significant turning point in my career. The show opened at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Although there were plays about homosexual families off-broadway, La Cage was on Broadway for a ground-breaking gay story in a big-budget musical. La Cage proved that good storytelling with socially relevant issues could be a critical success and financial success.
At BroadwayHD, we have a focus on diversity in our digital content. I work hard to ensure that women, the LGBTQ community, and diverse and international communities are represented in the works that we acquire for the service. We have also established the “trailblazers” rail on our site to highlight works from artists of diverse backgrounds and underrepresented voices.
Q. If not a business leader, what else would you wish to be?
I think that I would be directing theater full time if I was not running BroadwayHD. Directing a production encompasses many of the leadership skills required to manage a company. Although directors are not required to raise the capital, they are responsible for liaising with creatives and operating within budgets. I have directed theatrical productions across the country, including “The Foreigner,” “The Gig,” “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “If It Was Easy,” “The Golden Age,” “Frankenstein,” “Final Appeal” with Chaz Palminteri and Stephen Baldwin and “In the Wings” with Shannon Doherty.
Q. What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
BroadwayHD has monthly major initiative meetings to discuss how we can expand, grow our subscriber base, grow our content partner base, and which direction we want to go in. We must keep a cohesive vision in mind and move forward with a group effort.
I try to listen and learn from my employees. I understand my business, but I hired a team of people who are specialists. The best thing for BroadwayHD is to give each department head the tools they need to do their job in the best way and to ensure that they, in turn, give their team members the space to contribute and succeed.
Q. If you had the chance, what's one thing you would do to improve the service provided by your company?
BroadwayHD is a subscription entertainment service; easy signup, gift-giving, and user-friendly technology is always a priority for the subscriber.
Stewart F. Lane: A Trustworthy Leader
Stewart F. Lane is the author of the books “Let’s Put On A Show” (published by The Works of Art Library) "Jews on Broadway," editions one and two, (published by McFarland & Company, Inc.), "Black Broadway" (published by SquareOne Publisher) and the plays “In the Wings” (published by Hal Leonard) and “If It Was Easy” (published by Performing Books and nominated for Best New Play by the American Theatre Critics Association). Conceived and wrote the John Denver Musical “Back Home Again,” for which he received the John Denver Spirit Award.
Representing The Mayor of New York, Lane served on the Board of Directors at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center and the Transitional Committee, where he appointed both the Commissioner for Cultural Affairs and the Commissioner of Film, Theater & Broadcasting. Lane sits on the Board of Directors and the Board of Trustees of The Actor’s Fund of America and is on the Board of Advisors for The American Theater Wing. Lane sat on the Board of Governors of The Broadway League for 11 years and remains an active member.
Lane is the proud recipient of the prestigious Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor, The Jewish National Fund Tree of Life Award, The Child Development Center of the Hamptons Reach for the Stars Award, The BU College of Fine Arts Distinguished Alumni Award, The Boston University Distinguished Alumni Award, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Five Towns College, the Paul Newman Award for Services to the Arts and Children, a Certificate of Award from the town of North Hempstead, New York, and many other prestigious awards.
Giving back to the theater community, Lane has created scholarship funds at Columbia University Business Graduate School and Boston University College of Fine Arts Undergraduate School and has been a major support to the University of Massachusetts, Emerson College, and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts School. Five Towns College honored Lane with naming their business school after him for his contributions to the World of Entertainment. It’s now called Stewart F. Lane School of Business.