Australian TV Commissioning by Streamers Plummets, Says Lobby Group, as Producers Await Government Intervention

TV content commissioning by streaming companies operating in Australia has tumbled, industry association Screen Producers Australia says

Published Time: 05.06.2024 - 15:31:26 Modified Time: 05.06.2024 - 15:31:26

TV content commissioning by streaming companies operating in Australia has tumbled, industry association Screen Producers Australia says.

A recent survey of SPA members found that 80% were experiencing “less” or “much less” commissioning interest from streaming companies, compared with a year ago. Less than 10% perceived more interest and a similar figure felt activity to be “about the same.”

The slowdown stretches across initial meeting activity, development and production. And it is having negative consequences for everything from financing to members’ mental health.

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“This data is alarming .. it is clear screen producers and the workforce they employ are only just hanging on,” said SPA in a statement.

As an English-language territory with highly developed production resources, a large post-production and VFX sector and generous production incentive schemes at federal and state level, Australia previously benefited from the rise of streaming platforms.

Global streaming companies – Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video and Disney+, AppleTV+ – as well as local player Stan, which is owned by broadcast and newspaper conglomerate Nine Entertainment, ramped up competition for original content. And Australian-made shows such as Stan’s newly-renewed “Scrublands” and Netflix’s “Heartbreak High” have had global impact.

The SPA survey suggested that Netflix and Paramount+ had become the least engaged in Australia over the past year. Paramount Global owns both the Paramount+ streaming service and Australian free-to-air TV broadcaster Network Ten.

The surveyed SPA members pointed to lack of funding (38%), changed corporate strategy (27%) and global slowdown (23%) as the reasons they understood to be responsible for the slowdown. Streaming companies and Hollywood conglomerates, alike, have dialed back their COVID-era commissioning frenzy. They were dealt a further blow last year by the twin screenwriters’ and actors’ strikes in Hollywood.

Only 12% of survey respondents gave most bla -

me to the “awaiting regulation,” though SPA cited an anonymous member saying: “It is obvious SVODs are waiting as long as possible and doing as little as possible pending quotas.”

Australia’s federal government has for several years been looking at how to respond to the shift of audiences and revenues from linear channels to streaming. In order to raise finances, set cultural criteria and protect the independent production sector, it has been considering some kind of quota system. The government has also said that U.S. content “risks drowning out the voices of Australian storytellers.”

There were five models proposed in March 2023. After consultation with the industry, these were whittled down to two: an expenditure model; and a revenue model.

However, with less than a month to go, the government’s set-imposed target of July 1, 2024, to implement legislation looks likely to be missed.

“Australian audiences need some guarantee of access to Australian stories via online streaming services, just like they have for other services. The screen industry has been extraordinarily patient throughout a lengthy consultation process. Still, we need the Albanese Government to deliver on this important cultural commitment with a robust framework that supports both the industry and audiences now and into the future,” said SPA CEOMatthew Deaner.

Australia has an array of streaming models – pure play (Netflix), e-commerce-backed (Prime Video), hardware-linked (Apple TV+), Hollywood studio-backed (Disney+, Paramount+), broadcaster-VOD (10 Play), pay-TV replacement services (Kayo and Binge, operated by pay-TV leader Foxtel) as well as public broadcaster services (SBS On Demand) and emerging FAST players (Paramount Global’s Pluto).

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