Resources Article

Things to consider for online distribution


There is a need to clear rights for all content being distributed online. The NT is currently making a small payment to all rights holder for free online distribution of our recordings. It’s important to clear all rights for the recording including Writer, Director, Creative Team, Performers, Musicians, Stage Management amongst others. It is also essential to ensure rights are cleared in any commercial music which appears in the production. It may be beneficial to work with a third party company who can support managing copyright claims for online distribution.


Which online provider will you use for distribution and how will the content be released? This could be through YouTube using their Premiere function which releases the title at a particular time of day, it could be through Facebook – it’s important to consider which platform you will release content on and how it will be released. It’s also important to think about the aims behind releasing the content as this may affect the distribution plans. Would you like to reach far and wide in which case making the content freely available for a longer period of time would be preferred, or would you like to create an opportunity to generate income in which case releasing on a Pay Per View model may deliver better returns.

Press and Marketing

There are growing numbers of performances being made available online during this time so it’s important to consider the approach to press and marketing. How/when will your releases be announced and how will you let audiences know the recording will be available. The NT has benefited from using it’s existing channels such as twitter, Instagram as well as email to let audiences know about our online releases.

Social Media

The NT has found during the releases the audience are very active on social media and want to engage with the NT and each other to talk about the production. The NT have managed communications across a range of social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Instgram, YouTube during the release itself.

Revenue generation

It is useful to consider whether you would like to generate revenue from releasing the recording. If making it freely available on YouTube or Facebook there is an opportunity to enable audiences to donate, however the requirements to set up this feature are quite specific and require particular charitable status so may not be appropriate. It is also possible to work with a partner to offer a Pay Per View opportunity that would generate income to the organisation, however you should remember that the partner is also likely to take a portion of the rental fee.


Most online distribution will require subtitles/captions to be provided on video files that feature dialogue. These will need to be time-coded to the video file itself and uploaded to the platform. Audiences will then have the opportunity to turn them off/on as required. It is also possible to offer Audio Description through online distribution, however many platforms don’t offer this as a standard service and therefore a specific file needs to be created which features the Audio Description.

Emma Keith is Head of Broadcast and National Theatre Live at the National Theatre, London

Themes Digital Innovation