Boom for experience economy as hit TV shows enter real world
TV-themed festivals, events and experiences are booming as fans of hit shows such as Friends, Peaky Blinders and Stranger Things take their living room love affair into the real world.
Earlier this month, fans of Peaky Blinders were treated to the hit BBC show’s first ever official festival, Primark recently opened a Friends-themed cafe in Manchester and later this year Netflix’s Stranger Things gets the full Secret Cinema experiential treatment.
The extension of the likes of popular TV brands to events, experiences and promotions has spawned a new market targeting so-called “kidults”, who are willing to shell out serious cash for experiences as varied as MasterChef At Sea, where guests compete in a cooking competition against each other in the style of the TV show while also enjoying a cruise, to a Peaky Blinders escape room.
Anna Knight, vice-president of licensing at Informa Markets, says: “What we are living in right now is an experience economy. Experiences are what people want to buy now. These pop-ups and experiences tap into a cult level following by true fans spending money at a high level. You’re not just looking at a £10 T-shirt.”
Take the example of Secret Cinema’s Stranger Things event, which kicks off from 13 November, where regular tickets cost about £50. Devotees of the science fiction show set in 1980s Hawkins, Indiana, are promised “a living, breathing story to experience your favourite moments from the Netflix original series”.
Details are understandably scarce, but it takes place at a secret London location and ticket holders will experience unseen storylines and characters from the show. They will also be told to stick to a dress code and what accessories to bring, for a three-hour “other-worldly cinematic experience”.
Demand can be high. Secret Cinema took £8m in ticket sales from more than 120,000 fans wanting a slice of the James Bond lifestyle during the four month run of its Casino Royale experience.
“We spend $10m [£8.14m] on a show now,” says Max Alexander, chief executive of Secret Cinema. “For years there have been things like ComicCon but more recently there has been been a real proliferation [of experiences and events]. We might be approaching the high watermark of licensing. But the more people get used to getting off couches and having an adventure in an imaginary place the happier we will be.”
The overall value of the licensing of brands for events, themed attractions, experiences and promotions was worth $533m last year. This is up almost 21% on 2017, according to figures from Brand Licensing Europe.
The market has grown in rapid leaps and bounds in recent years. For example, TV channel Comedy Central’s FriendsFest started in 2015 as a five-day pop-up experience in London for fans of the hit 90s sitcom. Now it tours the UK for three months a year, there are FriendsFests in Spain, Poland, Germany and Russia and this year London is getting a special Christmas edition, called FriendsFestive. In the first year 5,000 tickets were sold at £5 each, the cost is now £29 and hundreds of thousands of fans have attended since it began.
“The so-called Instagram generation are much more about buying an experience, not a product,” says Knight. “It has always been the case that an experience was going to sport, a gig or something like that. Now the experience economy has transcended that to every part of life from theme parks and pop-ups to experiences within retail, festivals and escape rooms.”