Netflix’s global hit drama series “Clickbait” was conceived and shot in Melbourne but the settings were California. If it were commissioned today, it would more likely have kept an Australian accent too.
“Clickbait was commissioned out of the global team, but now that the ANZ team is operating, we are here to make Australian stories,” said Que Minh Luu, Netflix director of content, Australia and New Zealand recently.
There is a need for local stories to please individual market, but as successes like Korea’s “Squid Game” and Spain’s “La Casa de Papel” have demonstrated, local stories are also increasingly able to cross borders.
Luu was speaking at last month’s Screen Forever conference, taking place in person for the first time in two years, on the Gold Coast. Amazon, Stan, Binge and Paramount Plus (newly launched Down Under) were also present and were, similarly, promising to bolster their Australian content commitments.
“Amazon has the ambition to be the home of Australian talent,” said Erika North, head of Asia-Pacific Originals at Amazon Studios. She made a particular pitch for YA content, suggesting this is the area where the next global hit could emerge.
Australia-based streamers Stan (part of Nine Entertainment) and Binge (part of Foxtel) similarly pledged to grow Australian scripted content.
“We are well on track for 30% of our first run premium content supplied by Stan originals by 2025, which equates to around 30 local productions,” said Cailah Scobie, chief content officer at Stan, citing the recent development partnership with Lionsgate.
Binge boasts the success of its Australian adaption of “Love Me” which sold to Hulu. “It’s the biggest audience we’ve had for a scripted drama in five years for the Foxtel group,” said Alison Hurbert-Burns, executive director, Binge.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Netflix, Stan, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video spent AUS$179 million ($133 million) on Australian programs in 2020–21, up from AUS$153 million ($114 million) the previous year. (The ACMA definition focuses on programs that meet minimum requirements on Australian personnel in key creative roles.)
The uptick in Australian content spending bolsters the streamers’ argument that regulation and quotas are unnecessary. But many producers remain concerned by the slow pace of possible legislation.
The federal government has studied the sector, but has not yet proposed a working mandate that would require the streamers to invest locally. The government now faces an election in May, so further delay seems inevitable.
“It’s still an uncertain future,” said Tracey Vieira, chief content officer of Hoodlum Entertainment (“Harrow,” “Five Bedrooms”). “Without a regulatory environment that supports Australian content it goes away, as we have seen in other countries, and producers have to keep fighting for it.”