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“You Can’t Do That” – Could Be The Key to Your Success By Bonnie Comley

“You shouldn’t be doing that.” “No one does it that way.” “It’s never been done before.” These are statements that everyone has heard at some point in their life, and most people listen to this cautionary advice and stop what they were trying to do. Many people take these statements as an impasse, but what if the message, “you can’t do that,” is a key to unlocking the solution to the problem?

Here is my story. I am the founder of BroadwayHD, a streaming service specializing in full length filmed Broadway shows. BroadwayHD launched in 2015 and is no longer a small start-up business but a thriving entertainment platform serving a global audience of theater fans.

When I started BroadwayHD, I was told that this wasn’t a viable business. No one wants to watch Broadway shows on tv screens. There are too many union regulations and restrictions to make any money. You are too old to be starting or running an internet business. Venture Capital Funds and investors don’t finance women-owned tech companies. In other words, I was told, YOU CAN’T DO THAT.

“No one wants to watch Broadway shows on a TV screen,” and given a choice, most people would prefer to attend a Broadway show in person in the theater. “Broadway” is a luxury brand recognized worldwide as the pinnacle of live entertainment. According to The Broadway League’s statistics, the 2018-2019 season brought in $1.83 billion in ticket sales and added another $14.7 billion to New York City’s economy. US Broadway show touring productions and international tours of Broadway shows added additional billions to the United States economy. These are the statistics surrounding the live stage shows, the in-person experience of going to a theater, and watching a live performance.

But not everyone goes to a Broadway show, why not? The answer seems to be three main barriers to access, geography, price, and physical limitations. If these obstacles were eliminated by streaming, would there be a large enough audience to sustain a business? The average cost of a Broadway ticket is $125. and the average price of an annual streaming subscription service is $125. for multiple shows- this solves the price barrier. Technology Apps for smartphones and smart TVs allow the plays to be streamed at home or personal devices – this solves the geography and mobility issues. High definition and audio recording, captions, audio descriptions for sight imparied, and the ability to raise the volume needed for hearing impairments help address physical disabilities.

“There are too many union regulations.” As a longstanding member and passionate supporter of Broadway, I recognized that it was crucial to have the theatre community’s support for the BroadwayHD streaming concept to get off the ground. The BroadwayHD team reached agreements with the 17 Broadway and tv unions and developed collaborations with leading theatre organizations. In June 2016, we made the Guinness World Record for a Broadway show’s first live stream. The BroadwayHD partnership keeps expanding to include significant theater organizations eager to share their stage productions with the global community without the full burden of additional digital distribution and marketing efforts. The BroadwayHD platform exemplifies how traditional theater experiences are being reimagined for consumption in the digital entertainment era and changing the landscape of live theater.

“You are too old to be running an internet business.” By surrounding myself with a team of technology and marketing professionals, I operated with a surface knowledge of the many facets of BroadwayHD. I relied on my internal experts to run each department. My position and responsibilities as leader and founder were to create an environment in which everyone could excel. Since it launched in 2015, the impact and reach of BroadwayHD have been widespread and significant. The global appetite for live theater and digitized live theater is rapidly growing. BroadwayHD has subscribers in 122 countries and is adding new content every month. My BroadwayHD team of experts is exceeding expectations under my guidance.

“You are too old to run an internet business, and no one will give women enough funding for your business.” There are still less than 25% female CEOs and even fewer female founders in the media and tech industry, and funding still goes to the male founders. But by starting small and proving that BroadwayHD was a viable business, I was able to grow without a large outside investment.

The warnings were the keys to my success. By listening to the waning signals, I understood the challenges and addressed them, solved them, and created a global internet business. When someone tells you, “You can’t do that,” ask them why. It may be the key to your success.

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