The Met sings for video on demand

Opera performances going In Demand come Jan.

Metropolitan Opera performances are coming to video on demand in January through a deal with In Demand, which kicks off in January with a high-definition tape of Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette,” conducted byPlacidoDomingocq.

“This deal is a logical outgrowth of our arrangement to transmit eight of our operas this year to more than 600 movie theaters throughout the globe,” said Peter Gelb, general manager of the Met.

Tens of thousands of moviegoers bought $18 tickets to catch a live Saturday-afternoon Met Opera performance last year, a price that goes up to $22 for eight separate operas, roughly one a month, this year.

Rob Jacobson, president and CEO of In Demand Networks, said that as many as 30 million digital-cable subscribers will gain access to the eight monthly operas. And Jacobson said he’d be willing to sell the operas to DirecTV and Echostar, the satellite distributors, which would add almost 30 million more potential customers for the Met. In Demand is jointly owned by Comcast, Time Warner and Cox.

In Demand gets these taped performances 30 days after they kick off live in movie theaters, and the retail PPV price will be $9.95. People will be able to pony up for the opera at any time throughout a 30-day exclusive video-on-demand window.

The Met and In Demand will split each PPV purchase 50/50. After In Demand competes its 30-day contractual term, the Met will sell an over-the-air run of each opera to PBS. Public TV, Gelb said, used to carry regular performances of the Met until Texaco, the corporation that picked up the tab for the opera shows, stopped its funding a few years ago.

Gelb said he’s also looking into the prospect of making these operas available through video streaming on the Internet and through video iPods and other portable media players. The Met transmits the audio of four live operas a week through its deal with Sirius satellite radio.

The production values of the performances this season will be enhanced by two remote-controlled cameras that will be able to dolly above the stage to supplement the 10 fixed HD cameras, Gelb said. There’ll also be backstage cameras to capture behind-the-scenes action, as well as live interviews with the singers.

Regal Entertainment, ABC and Cinemark are the three main exhibitors of the operas through the Met’s deal with National CineMedia.

The seven other other operas this season are Humperdinck’s “Hansel & Gretel,” Verdi’s “Macbeth,” Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut,” Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” Donizetti’s “La Fille du Regiment” and Puccini’s “La Boheme.”

With the movie theaters, PPV and PBS, Gelb said, “We’ve created the operatic equivalent of a Hollywood movie rollout.”

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