An MBA culture elective is producing innovative ideas for the arts sector

The NT Live screenings of Rory Kinnear's Hamlet in November and Derek Jacobi as King Lear on 3 February at a cinema near you trace their origins to the MBA programme at Cambridge Judge Business School.

David Sabel, an actor from the US, was working as a chef in Paris when he decided an MBA was the route to take back into the theatre. "I wanted to get into the production and management side but knew that I would need some basic business skills," he says. "Judge's MBA programme is almost the only one with a focus on culture and the arts. I was immediately attracted by their open attitude to my rather oddball CV. They said 'That looks interesting' instead of querying why on earth I would want to do an MBA. The atmosphere was creative, and the students were diverse – there was a former television producer and other media industry people but also doctors, lawyers and journalists, which made a stimulating mix."

Dr Allegre Hadida has run a culture, arts and media management elective at Cambridge Judge Business School since 2000, attracting partners including Channel 4 and the Britten Sinfonia. She says: "Our students get a lot out of working with arts and cultural organisations, which are very different from the usual case studies, and our partners also benefit. Developing a case study about your own organisation forces you to think about what is going on, which can sometimes be painful."

Bringing together the business and arts worlds removes misconceptions says Hadida. "A certain classical musician took part in a workshop here and was terrified that the business students would be like participants in the television series The Apprentice, so he was delighted to find that they were humans and not caricatures."

A popular part of the arts and management elective is a creative workshop run by Richard Hytner, deputy director of Saatchi & Saatchi. When Sabel attended in 2008, he discussed the New York Met's live opera broadcasts with Hytner. Afterwards, he was asked by Nicholas Hytner, who is artistic director of the National Theatre and Richard's brother, to do a feasibility study for his MBA project on broadcasting theatre performances live into cinemas across the UK.

As a result, Sabel was offered a one-year contract to set up NT Live, and he launched the most innovative use of theatre technology so far this century. He is now head of digital media at the National Theatre, and the project is creating remarkable records – a single audience of 50,000 worldwide for the screenings of Phedre and History of Art, performances screened at 360 venues in 20 countries, with current audience figures of 250,000.

Despite its worldwide success, NT Live and Sabel haven't abandoned their connections to Cambridge Judge Business School. Becky Schutt, a Judge MBA graduate and lecturer in the culture and arts management elective, designed an NT Live case study together with Jeremy Newton, chief executive at The Princes' Trust. The Judge MBA students did a presentation to Sabel and his colleague Emma Keith in 2010. "It was very useful to get the business students' perspective" he says. "NT Live was at a critical point; we knew it was a huge success but still losing money, though we'd budgeted for that. I had to explain some of the issues in the arts world to the students like the complicated areas of copyright and artists' arrangements with the unions. Given this insight, the students looked at how to maximise value when you don't have flexibility in negotiations."

Sabel found the mix of experience and backgrounds in the class brought interesting and innovative ideas to the project. He says: "They all picked up on the fact that the key to the model was scaling up distribution. Once you're on satellite you can go to more cinemas and increase your revenue, because your costs are high but fixed. They also spotted that the biggest business opportunity was in the US."

Julie Zhang was one of the Judge students involved in the presentation. Her background was in finance and, until joining the elective, she had never considered the arts as a future career. "For the first time I saw the cultural arts from a business perspective," she says. "We took the business theory and applied it in practice to a case study in real time. Some of the ideas that we advocated, such as going worldwide with the brand and attracting younger audiences, are already being implemented. It's very rare and incredibly rewarding to see that your ideas are valued and taken on board by a client."

Schutt finds that the NT Live case study makes the point to a group of students with mixed backgrounds that the arts are facing the same issues as other organisations. "Globalisation and customer and market development are challenges that our students will grapple with wherever they work," she says.

Sabel provides a useful role model for the Judge students, says Schutt. "He's a wonderful Judge success story, and shows that you can be an entrepreneur even in a large organisation, creating a department from scratch, as David has done," she says.

Jeremy Newton came to Judge from within the arts sector. "My previous job was running RADA and I love working with students. The arts sector doesn't have a very good career development structure in this country, and I was keen to help Judge nurture the next generation of arts leaders," he explains.

"NT Live didn't start out to be profitable but, in a world of significant cuts in the arts, the students brought a sharp sense of financial reality. The benefit of this type of partnership flows in both directions, the MBA bringing value and the arts sector repaying that in spades by contributing insights and learning."

Sabel agrees that, as a client, he has benefitted from "having sharp minds who were hungry to work on a real project using their ideas and skills. It was exciting to see them really passionate about contributing to a ground-breaking innovation in the arts."

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
News
peopleActress tells men: 'It's your issue too'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS2 Teaching Supply Wakefield

£140 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Primary Teachers Needed for Supply in Wakefield

£140 - £160 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1&2 Supply Te...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam