Live Business is making at-sea entertainment interactive

Dan Lock and Mark Dixon share how digital technologies are reinventing the experience

Live Business is making at-sea entertainment interactive
Dan Lock and Mark Dixon work closely with clients to create dynamic onboard entertainment models

By Rebecca Gibson |

This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Spring/Summer 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

When media streaming service Netflix debuted an interactive TV show named Bandersnatch in December 2018 and empowered viewers to make their own narrative choices and create different endings, it marked a new era of innovation in the entertainment industry. However, this entertainment revolution is not just confined to land; it’s making its way to the sea too. 

“Whether its voting for their favourite performers, using keypads to answer quiz questions, or interacting with group games in real time, people love to get directly involved in entertainment,” says Mark Dixon, managing director at award-winning international production company Live Business. “We’ve been providing these types of interactive entertainment options for cruise ships and passenger ferries for the past couple of seasons. We’re now building on this by putting a live show where children can use keypads to choose how they want the story to evolve.” 

Interactivity is just one vital part of Live Business’s mission to reinvent the onboard entertainment model and provide passengers with innovative and fully immersive experiences that are unlike anything they have ever encountered on a ship before.     

“People now have a wide range of options when it comes to entertainment at home – they can play games on mobiles and computers, experiment with virtual reality, or watch TV shows, movies, live theatre, music, comedy and more – and they expect the same variety on cruise ships and ferries,” says Dan Lock, managing director at Live Business. “It’s no longer sufficient to simply provide one or two options and hope they’re enough, operators must invest in developing offerings that can be enjoyed by all kinds of passengers throughout the day.”

The easiest way to achieve this, says Lock, is for operators to partner with a company like Live Business that has the skills, experience and resources to deliver first-class entertainment. 

“Live Business is one of the first production companies to invest in building an in-house team of expert illustrators, graphic designers and animators, which means that we’re able to develop bespoke content for every individual client,” says Lock. “If our clients can imagine it, our team of in-house illustrators and animators can bring it to life using animations, motion graphics and more. We’ve helped ship operators to create everything from full daytime and evening entertainment programmes, to audio and visual installations, children’s animation platforms and tailored production shows that could rival those on Broadway or the West End.” 

Digital technology is playing a pivotal role in enabling Live Business to develop this kind of at-sea entertainment.  

“Artificial intelligence, the cloud and numerous other digital technologies have fundamentally transformed the entertainment industry in a way we have never seen before – both onboard passenger vessels and onshore,” says Lock. “Advancements in LED screen technology, for example, have allowed us to create visually stimulating and constantly changing scenery that quickly transports the audience to a virtual world. Meanwhile, new audio and visual technologies have allowed us to significantly enhance theatre productions and better support the live performers.”

To develop a compelling digital-first entertainment model that truly elevates the guest experience, Live Business must first understand each client’s brand identity and the type of customers it serves. “We want to create entertainment programmes that are in keeping with our clients’ ethos and help them to deliver on their mission statement and business goals,” explains Lock. “More importantly, we want to ensure that the entertainment offerings reflect the personal tastes and preferences of their guests. Analysing all of these factors makes it much easier for us to determine how best to use digital technology to enhance the existing onboard entertainment or produce something entirely new.” 

Working with a partner like Live Business has multiple benefits. “Traditionally, passenger ship operators have had to outsource different elements of their entertainment programme to separate contractors, which makes the whole process complex and expensive,” says Dixon. “We have the expert skills and resources to take care of all of their entertainment needs in house. Not only is this more cost effective for the client, but it also ensures that all elements of the company’s onboard entertainment work well together to create a consistent high-quality experience, regardless of whatever offering the guests choose to interact with.” 

Live Business can also help clients to capitalise on opportunities for generating additional revenue. 

“If an operator creates a bespoke cartoon for young passengers to watch, then they could potentially produce a range of related plush toys, novels, activity books, gifts, clothing and other products featuring the characters that can be sold in retail outlets onboard ships or in terminals, or via their websites,” comments Dixon. “Products like this allow passengers to take a part of their cruise or ferry experience home with them and also strengthens the operator’s brand.”  

Lock agrees: “Our cost-effective, turnkey entertainment solutions are tailored to each specific vessel and client, which allows us to develop a design, installation and management platform that truly enhances the satisfaction levels of our client’s passengers and motivates them to return to brand in future. We’ve already helped multiple passenger ship operators to enhance their brand offering, boost customer loyalty and drive revenue and we’ll continue to do so long into the future.”

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