Investing in the Future

2 November 2020

We talk to Izabela Błaszczyk, Director of KBF, about the PLAY KRAKÓW platform.

Karnet: Who is PLAY KRAKÓW for?
Izabela Błaszczyk
: At the time of the global pandemic, when we were all looking for ways of soothing our nerves, the internet has provided us with myriad cultural events of varying quality. It was the perfect opportunity to take a technological step forward and help our audiences find themselves in this new reality. We have developed the PLAY KRAKÓW platform for everyone who has found it impossible to function normally without culture at this time of isolation. And it’s also for those people who can be convinced to explore Kraków through an effective campaign. It is the first such VOD platform in Poland, offering all the city’s finest cultural events.

How have potential partners – institutions and event organisers – responded to the campaign prepared by KBF, operator of the platform?
The idea for the platform came from the Mayor of the City of Kraków; we took on its development and invited numerous institutions, NGOs, private agencies and other cultural organisations to participate. We are performing a service function by providing the platform for all of us. In the early days, event organisers were rather cautious: the platform was and still is something completely new, and most organisations haven’t previously been involved in producing events in a TV format, which involves a far more complicated process of obtaining copyright. I’m delighted that a month since the launch of the platform managers and employers of cultural institutions have been able to see how effective it is and are working hard to present their events on PLAY KRAKÓW. We are in numerous negotiations on potential collaboration and co-production projects.

What’s changed?
PLAY KRAKÓW has turned out to be a professional tool and using it doesn’t lose event organisers audiences – quite the opposite, in fact, since it allows more people to participate. Our partners have also noted the opportunity to promote themselves and show their organisational skills: by presenting a selected part of the programme, they can encourage audiences to participate in the whole. I’m not just thinking of concerts – there are also theatre productions, museum exhibitions, literary meetings and other cultural events. We have also had interest from organisers of congresses, conferences and business events who see the platform as a new tool for reaching audiences and a virtual library recording their event. We are conducting first discussions with representatives of this sector.

How can PLAY KRAKÓW expand audiences?
Let’s remember that PLAY KRAKÓW isn’t just available in Poland but world-wide, so growing numbers of our events will be accessible from all corners of the globe. I also think that participants in recorded events may want to return to them and watch them again, share them with others or go back to find details they’d missed.
The pandemic has helped me understand the experience of people with disabilities: it hasn’t been my choice to miss theatre performances or concerts, as though I were sitting helplessly in a wheelchair at the foot of the stairs. PLAY KRAKÓW is also aimed at viewers who wouldn’t be able to participate in person – they need and deserve culture as much as anyone!

What response have you had since the launch of the platform?
We launched on 15 September with almost 70 events, and over the first four weeks we reached about a thousand viewers. I’m relatively optimistic, since due to the pandemic we are dealing with organisational restrictions and limited budgets. We hope to gradually attract loyal viewers, and I’m sure our subscriber numbers will grow in the coming months. An excellent step was the understated promotional campaign on social media and on the cover of “Karnet”. Culture – or, rather, its personification – saying “I’m closer than you think” and “take me home!” intrigues and helps build relationships.
I’m also encouraged by the positive response from journalists and social media to the launch of PLAY KRAKÓW, and I’m grateful for the understanding and support from the Mayor of Kraków and local councillors who make budgetary decisions. Culture has suffered greatly as a result of the pandemic, yet we are seeing a kind of a community of thinking and positive attitude towards any actions which may support it.

PLAY KRAKÓW can be used to present individual concerts and spectacles, as well as bringing entire festivals online – I’m thinking of Sacrum Profanum…
At KBF we have always believed in the opportunities offered by the platform and that we are investing in the future. Sacrum Profanum is a great example: festival curator Krzysztof Pietraszewski decided to convert the pandemic-driven limitations into a carefully prepared programme making the most of the full spectrum of opportunities provided by the platform. A lot depends on programme and artistic directors: they have more factors to consider, such as thinking about the audiovisual quality of the recorded material and holding the audience’s attention. For me it’s especially important that all events, whether free or not, are of the highest quality in terms of programme and production: they simply must be attractive so that our viewers come back time and again.

Events are even being created especially for PLAY KRAKÓW, as was the case with the concert dedicated to the memory of Anna Jantar and Jarosław Kukulski.
We are talking before the event premieres on PLAY KRAKÓW, but given the excellent programme, its emotional value, star-studded lineup and experienced production team I’m certain that the concert will come across as well online as I perceived it on the day of recording. The event took place with a live audience of 500 viewers – 25% of the total capacity of the ICE Kraków Congress Centre’s Auditorium Hall – so it certainly qualifies as a live recording! There are bound to be more such events before the end of the year.
Let’s also remember that the platform provides support for the industry which has been heavily affected by the pandemic. PLAY KRAKÓW allows organisers to hold and record events and pay artists and everyone else involved with putting on the event at the time when we cannot sell tickets to live audiences. This support is as essential for them as the effects of their work are for us. We support each other.

Interviewed by Grzegorz Słącz

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