Barclays Center Inks First-of-Its-Kind Content Deal with Tidal

Oct 26, 2015

Barclays Center in Brooklyn has inked a name-in-title sponsorship deal with subscription streaming service Tidal that will see the arena’s theater configuration operate as the Tidal Theatre going forward, Billboard has learned.

The Barclays cut-down theater configuration, which features an advanced curtaining system located in the bowl, had operated as the Cushman & Wakefield Theater since the arena opened three years ago. The theater officially becomes the Tidal Theater today, and Cushman & Wakefield has been "repositioned" into other areas of Barclays Center, according to Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark, who describes the Tidal partnership as a "content deal."

The relationship will tap into Tidal’s artist development platform Tidal Discovery, as well as serving up unique experiences via Tidal X. As part of its naming rights agreement, Tidal will be curating events in the Tidal Theater with emerging and established artists. "[Tidal] will put a minimum of eight events into the theater annually," Yormark tells Billboard, "but we’ll compliment that with other events."

The Tidal Theater news comes on the heels of the Oct. 20 Tidal X: 1020 Amplified by HTC show on Oct. 20 at Barclays Center, which included performances by Jay Z, Nicki Minaj, and other artists, and was featured on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. The Tidal X live stream drew 3.3 million people in 198 countries throughout the night, according to a Barclays Center spokesperson -- more than double the number of people who streamed the Super Bowl in 2015. "Even though [Tidal X] wasn’t in the theater, we obviously had a big week," Yormark notes. "I don’t speak for [Tidal], but I think those kind of collaborative efforts really drive home what that brand means, and certainly the impact it has. I would venture to say, based on the success here, they’re probably going to do more events."

Yormark says the partnership, "affords us the opportunity to work with Tidal on emerging artist platforms and showcases, as well as some of their other artists, it doesn’t have to just be emerging artists," he says. "As evidenced by [Tidal X: 1020] the other night, Tidal, when they want to, can put on some big time events, and we anticipate having quite a few here at Barclays Center. It’s just another strategic alliance that I think helps to advance the content business here at Barclays Center, and we’re very excited about it."

The deal is unique in that it is believed to be the first time a digital content company has come in as a sponsor for a live performance venue. Yormark declined to reveal financial aspects of the deal beyond its content component, but did say, "Any of our platforms in Brooklyn, any of our major pieces of inventory, there’s a cost to them. But I don’t look at this [Tidal deal] as a revenue driver in that respect, I look at this as a really good strategic partnership because, ultimately we’re only as good as the events we have at the building."

While he agrees the deal is groundbreaking, Yormak says the Tidal title sponsorship is an extension of Barclays Center’s aggressive posture in the live content space. "There’s not one thing that’s going to drive this business, it’s a combination of things," he says. "When you think about what we’ve done over the last year, with opening the L.A. office, the Advisory Board, our strategic alliance with Roc Nation, and now the Tidal Theater as a way to drive our theater business, in combination those things are setting us up for an incredible future, and we’re already seeing the dividends of it."

The Tidal Theater’s curtaining system can offer seating for between 4,000 and 6,000 for theatrical performances, concerts, music festivals, boxing events, comedy acts, and other events. A newly unveiled configuration will allow guests to have direct floor access to Barclays Center’s Billboard Lounge amplified by Lightpath, and the Calvin Klein Courtside Club, as well as offer top sightlines from the 40/40 Club & Restaurant by American Express. Yormark describes Barclays Center’s theater business to date as "relatively active," averaging 14-15 events per year in the first three years. "Moving forward, with the [NHL’s] Islanders being here, our focus is really more about the big event business, so I’m not looking to necessarily grow the theater business, I’m looking to sustain it, and whatever I put in there I want to be meaningful," he says. "But the other play here, along with the Billboard Lounge, is creating platforms for emerging artists: they do Billboard, they do Tidal, and they aspire one day to play the big room in front of a sellout crowd at Barclays Center. The evolution of that artist relationship is critical for us, and Tidal will play a big part in that."

Historically, cut-down theater configurations at large arenas have been viewed as a means by which arenas can enter the 2,000-10,000 capacity theater game, as well as an option for underperforming shows. Yormark and Barclays Center are taking the long view on Tidal Theater as an opportunity for them to become more actively involved in artist development and careers. "When we’re talking to managers and agents on various subjects, being able to use Tidal and Billboard Lounge as emerging artist platforms allows us to have a broader and more strategic conversation on how the Barclays Center wants to be vested in their business, whether it’s a new artist or an accomplished one it doesn’t matter," Yormark says. "We want to be their home."