As of Nov. 1, the website BroadwayOnline.com stopped offering its service of theatre news, columns and special features. A victim of the dot-com downturn plaguing America, the site, owned by Broadway Television Network (BTN), effectively shut down as a provider of original theatre related content.
Rumors of financial trouble had long plagued the site, but the steady stream of content and a recent redesign belied the naysayers. However, when the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks sent shockwaves through the business world, BroadwayOnline.com reportedly took a hit in sponsorship from which it was unable to recover.
Tim Daniels, CFO of BTN and President of BroadwayOnline.com Inc., declined to discuss financial information but told Playbill On-Line Nov. 6 that the company would maintain the www.broadwayonline.com url and "revamp" it to market and sell its DVD and video titles. BTN will therefore focus on "producing and distributing Broadway musicals captured live-in performance for digital cinema, cable and satellite pay-per-view (PPV) systems, home video, Internet video on demand, cable and broadcast television."
What the site will no longer do is offer theatre news reportage, listings, columns and special features, though previously-written material will remain accessible on the site as an archive, and the site's ticketing services will continue. Why the retrenchment? "We did a strategic review of our business," Daniels told PBOL, "and chose to refocus on core activities that help Broadway Television Network to go forward. That meant exiting our web design hosting and scaling back the provision of original news content and show listing. Those were bringing in money but did not provide enough revenue building in the future for the way we wanted to go. We had a sizable portfolio of about 30 happy and paying clients, but we were delivering a very high rate of service to them, and the appetite of Broadway shows to funnel money into online was not going to be sufficient to carry our online division."
The vendor maintaining the webservers for those sites has now taken those clients on, Daniels added. "There's been no interruption of service. The clients got their websites back and all the materials with them, so they can remain where they are or move somewhere else." Among sites shepherded by BroadwayOnline.com are those for the Manhattan Theater Club, Broadway's The Music Man, Rent, Proof and The Tale of Allergist's Wife. National tour sites included Cinderella, Copenhagen, Guys and Dolls, Ragtime and Rent. All told, roughly 10-12 people were laid off owing to the downsizing. The last original content, run Oct. 31, featured "Best Of" compilations by such writers as journalist Randy Gener, editor Robert Viagas, and columnists Jessica Brower and Peter Filichia (the latter has already found a new internet home; his weekly column began appearing on TheatreMania.com Nov. 5). Playbill On-Line former managing editor Viagas will return to the Playbill company to manage its digital broadcasting wing, specifically concerning content for the Sirius Radio Network.
Before its name change to BroadwayOnline.com, the site was initially called "Theatre.com" (not to be confused with Theater.com, which brings web surfers to Broadway.com, the other major website in the theater information field), and before that, "BroadwayNow." According to BroadwayOnline's website, the concept was to create a "comprehensive internet theatre portal that designs and hosts websites for the Broadway industry." Its mix of news, ticket sales, listings and other features were ultimately geared towards directing readers to the websites of specific shows (where, presumably, they'd go on to buy tickets and merchandise). The parent company, Broadway Television Network, has been taping Broadway shows (Smokey Joe's Cafe, Jekyll & Hyde, Putting it Together) for broadcast on Pay-Per-View and theatrical outlets.
In his final open letter to BroadwayOnline readers, editor Viagas wrote about achieving his dream of making theatre news reportage as urgent as the coverage of standard news in the daily papers and media. He thanked his staff, BTN and "most of all...the readers who visited the site daily, and made it part of their lives. I believe that theatre does not happen on the stage, it happens in the hearts of those sitting in the audience."
— By David Lefkowitz