L. A. Theatre Works, the company known for its radio dramas, was the subject of a business make-over in a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times' business section. Each week the Times profiles a different small business, bringing in consultants to advise the company on how best to improve its chances of success.
Rohit Shukla, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Technology Alliance, and Jon Goodman, executive director of the Annenberg Incubator Project at USC, liked what they saw about Theatre Works, which claims to be the only organization that regularly records spoken-word plays in the United States. Not only did the company have a library of more than 250 contemporary and classical theatre productions, it maintained an ambitious production schedule of fourteen live productions a year at the Skirball Cultural Center, featuring such well-known actors as John Lithgow, Ed Asner and Marsha Mason, among others. All of its productions were recorded for later broadcast over National Public Radio and the BBC.
But when Shukla and Goodman looked closely at the challenges facing Theatre Works, they concluded that new technology and potentially new lucrative markets were passing the company by. "They are thinking about traditional radio and selling audiocasettes through a catalog, instead of thinking about all the other opportunities out there," the Times quoted Goodman. Both she and Shukla felt the company should "identify new-technology markets such as Internet radio and use them to expand its audience.
"They need to investigate and understand the new channels of distribution that are already coming on-line and know where their audience is going to migrate as a result. Everything about the organization has to revolve around this new technology."
Internet radio can reach the 100 million global users of the Internet, Goodman noted. "This is an easy way for L.A. Theatre Works to find a market of maybe 500,000 people who are dying to have spoken-word productions going on in the background of their lives, instead of music." She added that Theatre Works also needs to take into account satellite radio technology, which will get a boost when many 2001 model cars come equipped with satellite radio capacity.The Times reported that the advice given to Theatre Works' producing director Susan Albert Loewenberg has led her to set new goals for the group. "We want to brand the L.A. Theatre Works' name so it's synonymous with quality, get everything up on a server, figure out every possible way to market ourselves on the Web site, and explore the possibilities of Internet radio and delivering our product by downloading from the Web site," she said.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent