The amount spent on Australian dramas by streaming companies including Netflix, Foxtel and Disney+ has fallen by 11% or $47m ahead of the federal government’s promised introduction of local content obligations in the new year.
Labor has vowed to impose tougher rules on streamers to ensure Australian stories are told by the international platforms, but the legislation has been delayed until the new year.
Netflix in particular has had success with Australian content, but the industry has rejected the idea of a quota. A reboot of Heartbreak High was a global hit and the streaming service has commissioned a second series. The platforms, which also include Amazon Prime, Binge, Paramount+ and Stan, now dominate Australian viewing habits: 58% of adults use them in a given week, compared with 54% who viewed Nine, Seven, Ten, SBS or the ABC.
However, they are not subject to the same local content obligations as the free-to-air broadcasters.
Last financial year, the streamers contributed $398m of the total $680m spent on TV drama programs, defined as scripted narratives of any genre, according to Screen Australia’s annual drama report. That was down $47m on the previous 12 months. The free-to-air broadcasters, which now prioritise reality programs and sport over drama, spent $277m, up from $219m last year.
Most of the commercial TV drama hours comes from long-running series Home and Away and Neighbours. But free-to-air titles include the ABC’s Total Control, Seven’s Royal Flying Doctor Service, Nine’s Warnie and Ten’s Paper Dolls.
The outgoing Screen Australia chief executive, Graeme Mason, said the streaming platforms were down in the number of hours they produced, falling from 136 to 114, and the number of titles produced, which fell from 30 to 21, but he said they still spend more than the traditional broadcasters.
“This year’s drama report showcases the dynamic landscape of drama, with significant expenditure coming from a number of different categories,” Mason said.
Seven out of 21 subscription and streaming titles had budgets in excess of $20m, in contrast to just eight out of the 30 titles in 2021-22.
Nine Entertainment’s streaming service Stan made the most shows and produced the highest number of hours in line with its selling point as an original content producer. When feature films and the growing category of online drama – released on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube – are included, Australian drama totals $1.13bn.
The ABC continues to commission the majority of children’s programming, with the public broadcaster producing 75% of all titles and nine out of the 12 titles funded by Screen Australia, which contributed finance to ten titles. The Australian Children’s Television Foundation funded four titles. In the past five years, the ABC’s share of all children’s television has increased from 45% to 75% after the commercial broadcasters abandoned the sector.
The chief executive of Screen Producers Australia, Matthew Deaner, warned that the figures in the drama report looked good but the dominance of the streaming platforms was “having a profound effect on our viewing habits, what stories we get to see and the business dynamics that underpin investment”.
“The weight of evidence and data from our industry is that business conditions are getting tougher, the rewards are declining and the foundations that we have built a successful industry sector on are highly unstable,” Deaner said.
A record $809m was spent making foreign films in Australia, including big-budget theatrical features The Fall Guy, Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire and Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.
Source: The Guardian