Why Bauer is betting big – again – on Empire's live event potential

Bauer Magazine Media is gearing up to deliver 'Empire Live', a three-day film fest taking place in London's The O2.

Ticketholders have been promised more than 36 separate events taking place as part of the movie extravaganza on 23-25 September, with the likes of live script reads, singalong screenings and panel discussions all on the cards.

The venue – one of the biggest in central London – was secured through a partnership with AEG, the entertainment conglomerate and owner of the former Millennium Dome. With plans to take on the whole venue, the experience is set to live up to its epic namesake.

"A combination of trends around technology, cinematic content and consumer media behaviours has created major new opportunities to expand Empire's universe beyond its existing multiple touchpoints – the print magazine, website, social, digital edition, newsletter, podcast and awards," Rob Munro-Hall, Bauer's group managing director told The Drum.

"Fan interest in film in the UK and worldwide has never been bigger, thanks to key releases including Star Wars and the last Bond movie, while TV shows such as Game of Thrones, True Detective and The Walking Dead are becoming more cinematic, with fans wanting to connect with their talent, writers and directors."

While the time may be right to launch an experience dedicated to movie buffs, Empire has in fact been down this road before. 'Empire Presents Big Screen' took place back in 2011, yet its legacy was ill-fated: the 2012 show was canned two months before it was due to take place.

"The [Empire Presents Big Screen] event sold 10,000 tickets and saw a 47,000 footfall over the whole weekend," explained Munro-Hall. "We review all of our brands on an ongoing basis to consider what business models work hardest for them - the decision was taken to not take this particular event forward but to progress the concept planning around 'Empire Live'."

The MD continued: "The new partnership with AEG allows us to take the learnings from 'Big Screen' and from their experience of the Sundance Festival to launch 'Empire Live' as a manageable sized event, where Empire brings the content expertise and AEG bring their event, ticketing & venue expertise."

While the event aims to reinforce brand perceptions, elevate PR and the rest, there is no doubt that in the struggling world of print publishing, commercial factors are at play. Bauer is not the only publisher diversifying into the live space; the Financial Times – which said it is embracing "fewer but bigger events" - warned that publishers not already in the space "might be too late to the party".

The world of live experience offers two clear revenue streams – cash from tickets and cash from sponsors. While Empire subscribers were purchasing their tickets before they even knew what was on the line-up, 'Empire Live' is also keen to push the latter, offering up title, secondary and category sponsorships to brands looking to "position themselves within a premium celebrity environment," according to Munro-Hall.

And the publisher is showing no signs of slowing down its live offering.

"We also run a very successful series of events for Yours magazine aimed at the 50+ audience and the radio business runs very profitable events for Magic and KISS," Munro-Hall added. "Consumer events are a significant part of our motorcycling, consumer motoring and equine business and our B2B automotive portfolio has grown substantially through exhibitions, conferences and events.

"We are always looking at ways to develop further profitable Bauer Media branded events – this relationship with AEG opens up many more opportunities for Bauer Media," he concluded.

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