We began our work with the Royal Opera House in December 2021 when they were in the midst of developing their ROH Stream subscription product, which would showcase their outstanding collection of opera and ballet performances. It later launched in October 2022.
This was a new departure for the opera house, which had hitherto been primarily focused on live and latterly cinema performances. The senior team wanted reassurance that the assumptions they had made in their planning were justified.
Mindy Kilby, Director of Finance, said: “HBM Advisory was recommended to our CEO. After meeting with them we were clear that their combined content and commercial experience would help us hone our plans.”
The initial work focused on ensuring that likely acquisition and retention of subscribers had been accurately reflected in the business model. This involved HBM Advisory using their long experience of subscription models to assess pricing, acquisition costs, and acquisition and churn rates.
“HBM Advisory worked closely with the ROH team to rebuild our subscription model. Despite the model being both so complex and so consequential, the team enjoyed working with HBM Advisory immensely. Their experience of performance factors and best practices gave us a lot of confidence in the changes they suggested,” added Mindy.
We also provided advice and a framework for subscriber-friendly content, drawing on the work we have done both at The Times, The Economist and elsewhere. Central to our learnings is that regular and frequent interaction with content is crucial for the retention of subscribers. This is as true for a site streaming world-class opera and ballet as it is for those offering up news.
We worked with the ROH team to build a sustainable content plan, both on and off platform, and using established tools such as email, with the aim of increasing habitual usage.
“HBM Advisory’s long experience in building content plans that support growth gave the product, marketing and content leadership teams confidence and valuable support. Understanding creative and editorial sensibilities provided a platform for constructive discussion and debate,” said Mindy.
From our perspective, the work showed us that the lessons we had learnt predominantly in publishing were transferable to other kinds of subscription businesses. This was brought home to us by the client’s favourable response to our Digital Fitness Assessment, which we conducted at the start of the engagement. This is a tool that allows organisations to gauge how well they are performing digitally compared to industry peers and whether they are set up correctly to deliver future growth.
The feedback from the opera house team was that our assessment of their business case gave confidence to senior management and trustees that they were on the right track as they continued the long journey to launch. We were also able to give them examples of subscription best practice which they were able to implement immediately rather than waiting months to learn the lessons themselves.
Mindy summarised the experience of working with us: “We really valued working with HBM Advisory. Their experience and seniority meant that board members respected their assessment and recommendations. And their enthusiasm and approachability meant ROH colleagues equally enjoyed their input. It was a genuinely worthwhile partnership.”
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