John Petrocelli Of Bulldog DM Talks The Future Of Festival Live-Streams

John Petrocelli Of Bulldog DM Talks The Future Of Festival Live-Streams

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LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) Bulldog DM is one of the most proficient live-streaming companies for premium content and has handled everything from the NHL and NBC to Snickers’ live Super Bowl commercial. Its main focus is to bring consumers to an event via a live stream, sponsored by a brand.

The company’s CEO, John Petrocelli, has been involved in incorporating and monetizing live streams for more than 20 years. He was previously VP, sales and business development, at AEG after selling his company to the promotion conglomeration, where he led live streaming engagements for festivals like Coachella, Austin City Limits and Lollapalooza.

Although the company handles live streams for a multitude of genres, we decided to focus on the future of live streaming for today’s festivals.

There is so much we could discuss but how about we just dig deep into the festival realm. Yet, I come to you with my hands open because there is a lot to learn in this space.

You’re not alone. This is somewhat of an emerging area of interest and an emerging market.

Nonetheless, the universe that we somewhat sit in is the live-streaming industry and, for your readers, that particular group, if it’s not on their radar now, it’s probably starting to be.

You’re starting to hear from either fans or artists or venue operators – just the general notion of amplifying existing experiences beyond the room that they’re in and sharing those collaboratively with viewers and consumers and fans on their connected devices and, in parallel, there is a big interest in engaging the Millennial and Gen Z consumers who are really pushing hard – it’s priority for them.

Priority for them is events and concerts and shared experiences over buying a house or a watch or a car. We help tap into that conversation in general. We provide guidance and best practice strategy to all the stakeholders – artist, manager, label, promoter.

We also bring the brands into the conversation. They’re having a hard time connecting with people who aren’t sitting in front of the TV and watching “Law and Order” on Thursday night on NBC and sitting through the State Farm ad. Their idea is to DVR and skip the commercial or really spend their time going to a show if they live in Chicago and the show is in San Francisco. They can potentially tune in and have a collaborative experience with their friends watching a performance.


We touch on all those areas and have been doing it for a long time. So I guess we have a lot of particular insight.

You said it’s still an emerging market. How many festivals, percentage-wise, are incorporating live streaming versus those that are not?

Festival-wise, I think there are 200 major festivals in the U.S. A small percent of them are live-streamed today.

It’s actually an area of concentration and an area of focus for our business. I sold my previous business into AEG and all the live streaming in the market we facilitated, like the Grammys, Oscars, Masters, TED Conference, E3 and all of MTV’s experiences.

Prior to the sale of the company and through it I had commenced a conversation with YouTube and said, “Hey, this might be an important industry for you to contemplate. One, you’ll bring in a highly engaged audience to the YouTube platform for whatever you do – concert, performance, festivals, etc. Then, post-event, you can share all the content that lives on the YouTube platform with the viewers after the experience.”

We did a proof-of-concept show with Alicia Keys from an AEG venue in Times Square and shared that out to viewers, brought to them by American Express. YouTube said that was actually interesting. They said they had a very happy audience and a happy brand and a very happy artist. They wanted to get into the business but they were an on-demand company, not a live company.

So, for three or four years, we powered everything on that platform and that included Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Rock In Rio, and Austin City Limits. The Alicia Keys concert became “American Express On Stage.” They’d bring in a big artist about to release a record into an iconic venue and then they’d bring a noteworthy director like a Spike Lee or a David Lynch to direct the show.

So we were kind of in the cross-hairs of when Coachella migrated over to YouTube and it has now become this phenomenal experience. Last year, it had 43.1 million views from 230 countries.

We know that market really well and we think that’s a great focal point for live streaming because the bands are there, they’re performing, it’s multiple stages on multiple days, everything from emerging artists to multi-platform superstars and you can really create a compelling experience and broadcast it.


It’s still in growth mode. I’ve been doing it for a really long time but it’s come into focus, really, in the last two years or so.

So there is a lot of possibility and potential but there are only some festivals that are actively streamed today. A lot of this, I believe, needs to be financed or underwritten by Madison Ave. and by the brands. There is a conversation we are having to help the brands understand, that, “If I execute this properly, I’m going to drive reach and have, more importantly, engagements and really compelling watch times.”

It would seem that a new promoter with a new festival would be cautious and would want to make sure people came through the gates first before they watched it at home.

The opposite is actually true. The more live video that is offered, especially live music, the greater the interest in buying tickets or going to the experience. I’ve seen Michael Rapino announce his partnership with Vice on CNBC and that’s the first question they asked. “Well, if you’re streaming live shows, are you going to cannibalize ticket sales?”

And the No. 1 ticket seller on the face of the earth said, “It’s just the opposite. It’s actually a great advertisement.”

There’s no substitute for being there and we’ve seen other data points. I think it’s 40 percent of people who watch a live stream who have an inclination to purchase a ticket to that show or that tour or that artist when they come to where they are geographically. Also, with streaming, you can geofilter. You can block the stream from the ticketed circumference.

A lot of these festivals are still fairly robust. I know the market has seen a little over-saturation and is going through a bit of a correction but the stream becomes a very compelling opportunity to also share the experience with the people. You go from a regional festival to, now, a national or international broadcast. You can see people coming from Europe to the Governors Ball or BottleRock or Electric Forest.

How do you match up a festival or promoter with a sponsor? Does Bulldog do that internally or do you go through a Marcie Allen / MAC Presents?

We have relationships and partners with people like MAC and Marcie. Our focus is exclusively on the live stream.


Our partners that run music festivals, they manage everything that happens on the grounds, i.e., the official card, the official handset maker of the festival, the official beer, whatever. Our expertise is constructing the conversation with Madison Ave., directly with brands, sometimes with agencies, on how live video can really help them.

We’ve seen instances where the watch time is 20, 30 or 50-plus minutes, so our focus is entirely on the digital or live-streamed experience and the on-premises duties are managed by either those companies or by the in-house sponsorship teams at the festivals.

Anything else?

Yes. I think that the opportunity with live-streaming with music festivals is uniquely positioned to address the three big challenges that are hitting marketers, Madison Ave. and advertisers. Those are three noteworthy hurdles and obstacles and barriers that are causing a great deal of disruption with advertisers.

The first is cord-cutting, which is a pretty significant challenge. Some would call it an epidemic, especially with a Millennial or a Gen Z-type demographic. I’ve seen 40 percent of Millennials have cut the cord and then there are 20, 30 million consumers who never had a traditional subscription.

In that case, here is an opportunity where the viewers want to tune in. They know the experience is brought to them by Red Bull or T-Mobile or Samsung or AT&T and they’re thrilled that they can stream a music experience like a festival brought to them by a brand. So that’s a big opportunity, that’s a big challenge that streaming brings to the advertising community.

Second, a pretty rampant problem now is the propagation of ad blockers. The numbers, last year, I think were 650 million devices had installed ad blockers, blocking traditional display ads. We believe with live-streamed festivals, again, the advertisement is the user experience, again brought to you by a Samsung or an AT&T.

And, recently, and especially since the last presidential election, there’s this notion of brand safety. Brands advertising on a platform like YouTube don’t want their ads next to, you know, dubious content that they don’t want to be associated with. You’ve seen AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson withhold hundreds of millions of digital ad inventory because of that problem.

Because the festival stream is brought to you in a powered-by-the-brand experience, the video experience is the actual ad. It completely addresses that brand-safety challenge – positioned properly by us, by the promoters, and even by the artists or market in general.

Advertising is a $503 billion industry going through a massive disruption. Presenting it in that matter and walking the brands through why this is helpful, I think, will drive incremental revenue back to the overall festival experience and it becomes this really compelling way to solve these gigantic, disruptive problems that marketers are facing.

Probably repeating what you just said, but it would seem that all of the disruptions you mention would definitely make live streaming the answer.

Exactly. We believe in best practices so the quality of the video would have to be equal to what you would see on a television broadcast. When we bring video producers or edit-live television experts, a lot of them have spent a lot of time around live music or Grammy-nominated producers, so that’s a big issue. The live video player has to load on a person’s device in the first three seconds or we lose, like, 20 percent of the audience. And now we have an audience that wants to curate its experience – maybe it wants to see Mumford & Sons on the main stage or maybe they’re the fans of Pretty Lights. It gives them the ability to go back and forth.

And then the other thing is, having done this for 18 years in this space, we’ve learned that it’s best for the viewer to be transformed into a participant. Give them the ability to post, comment, share, tweet, chat, etc. We’ve learned that when you turn on that capability, now there’s this collaboration, a participatory broadcast.

But having said that, we’ve also learned that a lot of times the social stream is off topic. It’s not related to the video. It’s filled with spam. So we’ve found ways to aggregate the conversation but, more importantly, curate it. So now the social stream is related to the video and that’s when we see people watch longer. They tend to share it and have a conversation around it. That benefits everybody and the watch times tend to go through the roof. It becomes a win for all the various stakeholders.

I fell in love with my VR headset with my last Samsung phone. Then I got a new phone and it was too big for the headset. I didn’t buy a new headset.

I think you’re describing the challenge of the VR market. People are waiting patiently for this market to get traction and adoption.

There were early adopters who bought these devices. The challenge becomes making this scalable. And universal as well, so you don’t have to change the device once you’ve invested in it, but also it’s the price point of the device.

And I think the market had over-optimistic expectations about device penetration. And I think it’s going to take a little longer than people would have liked. I think the future is really less about the device and the goggles wrapped around your head and more about the augmented reality or the mixed-reality experience where it’s more of, like, lenses where you can still see the real experience.

You’re looking at more of the Microsoft HoloLens. That’s a place where you start to see scale, and that becomes a transformative experience in terms of you being almost there at the music performance versus, kind of, being locked into a headset.

So there is a lot of innovation that is predicted to happen. We feel that innovation is coming and that’s when we’ll start to see getting over the hurdle that you’ve experienced, for sure. I think that’s the challenge, that’s the barrier to growth in that market. We’re probably still 24 months away; there are companies like Magic Leap that have $1 billion in investment and they’re building solutions to address these challenges.

When that finally happens I think you’ll see a galvanized consumer base that would really be drawn to having an experience with video like that.

Anything in conclusion?

I think this market is going to be very important for artists.

What we’re seeing right now is that all of the social platforms have started to optimize for live video. They would start with text or video on demand but, in 2016, Facebook launched live video and then prioritized it.

We’re seeing the same thing happening on the Twitter platform – live video combined with tweets. That’s becoming a hot topic. And now YouTube is a fully serviced live platform, either DIY or broadcasts like Coachella.

Twitch, being acquired by Amazon, is by default a very robust live platform. I think you’re seeing live capability now on Instagram, which is very noteworthy given that there are a billion consumers on Instagram and, I think, roughly 50 percent follow 10 or more music artists.

So, for the artists who have built their social media followings, this now becomes a place for them to broadcast live. And it could be them rehearsing. I think Esperanza Spalding did a 60- or 70-hour live stream of her creating a record in the studio. Katy Perry did, I think, a 96-hour live broadcast of her life over three or four days pre-tour.

I think these social platforms are going to lift the overall market and it’s going to benefit the consumer and the brands but it will also be a great platform for the artists because live helps them with discovery of future ticket sales, merchandise, etc.

There’s a lot more to come in this space and I think a lot of it is going to be helpful to the artists themselves.

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