The World Champions Fling at the end of Inner Ear's live stream of the World Highland Dancing Championship Finals 2023 from Cowal Gathering in Dunoon

Monetise Live Streams by Harnessing the Highland Dancing Passion

“Capture 605 highland dancers performing on three stages, over three days. Make the first two days available to watch for free. Then, monetise live streams of the World Highland Dancing Championship Finals.” All this from a field in Dunoon.

This year’s brief from Cowal Gathering was similar to previous years covering and live streaming the event. That started in 2018 and continued each year, with virtual versions through the pandemic. However, we had an extra stage to include this year and thus three concurrent streams to run. We also had to select the best way to monetise the finals.

First Make Them Free Then We Monetise Live Streams

Funder EventScotland encouraged Cowal Gathering to try to monetise live streams. After investigating many options we decided to use EventBrite because:

  • The audience were familiar with it,
  • The digital event package is straightforward,
  • Cowal had used it in the past for ticketing.

Streaming the first two and a half days free-to-air and then charging for the finals worked well:

  • About 11,000 viewers watched on day one,
  • Nearly 12,000 on day two,
  • 1,900 paid for the finals.

When you monetise live streams, you have several models to choose from which include:

  1. Donation/pay what you want
  2. Pay-per-view
  3. Subscription

As we’ve stated, for Cowal Gathering 2023, we opted to use the donation model, which was effective and earned the event a significant amount of additional revenue. Moreover, we think there’s scope to increase the minimum suggested donation in the future.

Cowal Highland Dancing, Grandstand Stage 24/08/23

For free-to-watch coverage of the three mornings, we published up live streams on the Cowal Gathering YouTube channel. Specifically, we sent three SRT streams from our tent in Dunoon Stadium to Castr. Then we relayed them to YouTube for the free-to-watch streams and Vimeo, via EventBrite, for the pay-per-view finals). By opting to make commenting on the YouTube live streams available to channel subscribers only, we doubled their following.

Helpful, Knowledgeable and Great Fun

Inner Ear has worked with Cowal Gathering for several years now. Every year we ask their team to add something new. This year it was to provide a livestream of an additional stage, meaning broadcast quality video of all three highland dancing stages over the three days of the event. Cowal Gathering has a very discerning audience who are looking for the smallest nuance in each of the dancers. This means the live stream has to be both high quality and stable, to allow viewers from across the world the best possible view of what’s happening live.

With event costs rising we looked at how we could monetise this year’s livestream and took a hybrid approach. We offered two and a half days of viewing free and put the World Highland Dancing Finals behind a paywall. This was the perfect solution for us, for this year. And Inner Ear was able to provide this service professionally and without question. As well as providing Cowal Gathering with a first-class service, which frees up my time to concentrate on other aspects of the event, the team is helpful, knowledgeable and great fun.

Janet West, PR and Social Media Manager for Cowal Gathering

Finding Our Feet

Highland dancing is a worldwide phenomenon. And, much like our internationally-renowned coverage of major bagpipe competitions, there is an eager audience, keen to see every step.

The 605 dancers competing in the Highland Dancing Championships (120 from overseas) put everything they have into each step. They’ve trained hard and practised diligently to get to compete at Cowal Gathering. They deserve to be given the opportunity to reach a worldwide audience. And the audience wants to support the dancers, and the event; they deserve the best coverage we can give them.

Inner Ear

Before we were brought in to live stream the highland dancing in 2018, someone had attempted to do stream to Facebook previously, using a 3G connection. Apparently they got bored half way through the finals and went off to film some of the highland games. At first we approached event coverage with the same production style we use for live music, performing arts and even piping competitions. By using multiple cameras, we cut between wide shots of the stage, beautiful close-ups and interesting alternative angles from the side of the stage.

The audience soon put us right. We had some constructive comments (they were actually quite friendly and helpful) saying: “we understand what you’re trying to do with the arty shots of individual dancer’s feet, but we just want to have a wide shot showing the whole stage and all of the dancers all of the time.” So since then that’s what we’ve done, giving the audience what they want in the best possible way.

Capturing The Action

To capture the action we rigged a team of robot cameras so we could adjust the shots over the course of the event. We had mics on each stage for the piper and the dancer’s feet, which hit the stage together, on the beat. Feeds from the announcers kept the audience informed. And with on screen graphics, the pictures were adorned.

Our streaming HQ was a tent behind the main stage. When the sun was shining we could look out over the site, up the hill towards the Gig At The Gathering tent, fairground, bike tracks, stalls and, right in front of us, pipe bands and heavyweight athletes competing in the world’s biggest Highland Games. Cowal Gathering is a fantastic event, much loved by the 10,000+ people who attend in person and, since we have been live streaming it, tens of thousands more who watch our coverage of the highland dancing online.

Monetise Live Streams to Boost Event Revenue

Highly engaged online audiences, like those who watch the dancing at Cowal, are valuable assets for an event. For instance, we know from our music tourism development research, and from audience data gathered at the Glenfiddich Piping Championship, that audience members do travel from overseas to attend events that we live stream annually, which boosts physical attendance revenue and the local and national economy.

But there are other ways the audience can add monetary value to events like this, including the appeal to sponsors and advertisers, merchandise purchases and buying tickets to watch online. There are many factors to consider — and a lot to get right technically behind the scenes, especially in a challenging, rural environment in a field in Dunoon on the Cowal Peninsula in Argyll. But with the right approach to audience engagement, promotional and presentation, the online audience can contribute in a way that helps the event put its best foot forward. All that is besides being able to monetise live streams, as we did at Cowal this year.

We can help you bring your audience closer to your project’s action. Get in touch and let’s discuss how we can help you realise value from your assets.

Cowal Highland Dancing, East Stage 25/08/23