Last edited 8:43 a.m., Aug. 16, 2022
A Branson resident who grew up in the local music industry has started a video streaming service to deliver music and other acts beyond the Taney County town’s borders.
Branson+ is a streaming platform launched last month by founder Seth Britton that provides subscribers access to dozens of videos showcasing past performances of Branson theater shows. It joins a growing field of streaming services that includes Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and HBO Max – not that Britton has designs on cutting into those companies’ bottom line.
He said the impetus behind starting his new venture was to bring Branson to viewers beyond the live stage.
Videos from current and prior productions on Branson+ include musical entertainers Grand Jubilee, The Duttons and Jim Stafford, as well as illusionist Rick Thomas and comedian Yakov Smirnoff. Subscription prices are $5 per month or $50 for a year, according to BransonPlus.com. Viewers can go to the website to subscribe or download the Branson+ app to their Android or Apple devices.
Britton, who is general manager of the Pierce Arrow Theater in Branson, said he first thought about the Branson+ concept four years ago. However, it wasn’t until 2020 before he took any action. He credits longtime friend Matt Toca as “very instrumental” in aiding with graphic design, video editing and coding. Britton estimates the two have spent over 5,000 hours combined poring over old DVDs and VHS cassettes supplied by participating shows to upload over 100 videos on the site.
“He’s been helping me with that back-end work,” Britton said, adding he’s the sole employee for the venture, in which he’s invested roughly $60,000. “Being in the show industry for as long as I have and knowing the people, the entertainers and show owners as much as I do, there’s such a demand for people who love Branson.
“My thought was how do you make this accessible for people to see all this video content that is being recorded.”
As part of the Branson entertainment industry for over 20 years, Britton said he’s worked the past 12 years at Pierce Arrow, which was founded by his father, Dan. The Britton family owns and operates the theater and its stage shows, he said.
Roughly 25% of the videos on Branson+ are full-length performances, Britton said.
Others include music videos, interviews and illusion tutorials. Pierce Arrow currently has four videos available, he said. The streaming service also is diversifying beyond staged productions, as it features recordings of area events, such as the Branson Car Auction.
Britton expects to add at least another 50 videos to the platform by year’s end.
He said 14 shows have agreed to be on Branson+ and at least eight more plan to join by the end of the year.
“I haven’t gotten any saying ‘no,’ but some have said ‘not right now,’ he said.
One of the first to say yes was The Haygoods, a show celebrating its 30th year in Branson.
Timothy Haygood, CEO of Haygood Family Enterprises Inc. and a performer in the music show that includes his five siblings, said Britton pitched Branson+ to him around a year ago.
“I didn’t know what to think at first, just because it was so new and such a revolutionary idea,” he said. “Once I understood it and grasped the concept, I was pretty jazzed about it.”
Britton said it’s free for the shows to appear on Branson+. They stream exclusively on the site, provide him with access to their recorded performances and he pays the shows an undisclosed percentage of subscription revenue every month.
“All I ask from them is to market the streaming service from every one of their live shows,” he said. “A lot of them will be passing out little advertisements with their show tickets when they print them off for the customers.”
Haygood said two complete performances of his family’s show are on the platform with more to come soon. He expects the current season will be available later this year after the family launches its new show.
“We add new numbers and redesign the show every season,” he said. “We have an archive of every Christmas show and every regular season show. We have 60 different performances in historical archives.”
Noting the show now has a fanbase of three generations, Haygood said some might not come to a performance except every two or three years.
“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity for them to catch up with us on Branson+,” he said.
With his streaming service, Britton hopes to capitalize on intertest in the city’s live theater and music ecosystem. The industry created an economic impact of 2,288 jobs, $44 million in earnings and $147 million in economic output in 2019, according to a 2020 study by research firm Sound Diplomacy for the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Spreading the word
As Britton has spent so much of his time working to get videos ready for uploading on the service, he said marketing Branson+ has mostly taken a backseat thus far.
Officials at the Branson chamber declined to comment for this story as they said they’re not very familiar with the platform.
Bob Nichols, president of the Branson Academy for the Advancement of Music and Theatre, said his knowledge of Branson+ is limited. Still, he’s glad to have another service that promotes Branson, noting the nonprofit that he leads advocates and markets for the city’s music and theater industry.
“Any publicity in terms of getting out the message of the incredible level of talent, great variety and types of offerings in Branson that lets the people know what we do have to offer in terms of shows and theaters is positive,” he said.
“It seems like another vehicle to really help disseminate word about Branson showbiz.”
Aside from capitalizing on interest in Branson from visitors, which surpassed 10 million for the first time in 2021, according to city officials, Britton hopes to carve out a niche in the video streaming space. Worldwide revenue in video streaming is projected to reach $80 billion in 2022, according to market research company Statista. Over $34 billion of that is expected to come from the U.S.
While Britton plans to maintain his full-time job at Pierce Arrow, he said starting Branson+ will eventually require more of his time and focus to grow the venture.
One goal in the next year is to get Branson+ available as an app on Roku and Amazon, so people can easily access the streaming service on their TVs.
“I do think there’s a certain point where if you’re not providing content fast enough or consistently enough, you’ll lose your subscribers,” he said, declining to disclose subscriber totals or projections. “There’s more than just shows on it. There is a point where I need to start coming out with original content, which requires money and time. Will there be a point? Yes, but I don’t know when that point will be.”
As for livestreaming content, Britton said it’s coming. However, the timeline for that also is uncertain.
“That’s something that’s on the roadmap. Livestream is 100% going to happen,” he said.
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