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Four of the major SVOD platforms – Amazon, Disney+, Netflix, and Stan – spent more than $260 million collectively on Australian programming in 2019-20, according to data from the ACMA.

The inaugural SVOD Australian content investment report shows $153 million went toward programs that met the minimum requirements of being classified as Australian under the Broadcasting Services (Australian Content and Children’s Television) Standards 2020.

There was also a further $115 million put into programs that met at least one requirement of the definition.

According to the report, more than 80 per cent of the expenditure from the four SVODs related to the commissioning or co-commissioning of new Australian programs in drama, children’s programs, documentaries, light entertainment, and other programming genres.

The data was voluntarily given to the ACMA from the services following requests from Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts Paul Fletcher last December.

The information will inform the consideration of proposals outlined in the government’s media reform green paper, which suggests SVODs and AVODs invest a percentage of their revenue on Australian content in the form of commissions, co-productions and acquisitions.

Industry consultation on the paper closed in May, with Stan, Amazon, and Netflix each expressing concern about the prospect of obligations.

As a streaming service owned by the holder of a broadcast licence, the government has suggested Stan would be exempt from the minimum spend obligations.

The screen guilds and associations have called for eligible SVOD and AVOD services to reinvest 20 per cent of their Australian-sourced revenue into commissioning new local content.

Minister Fletcher said the report would allow the government to make the right decisions for the local industry.

“What we know from this initial report is that we have a sound starting point in terms of content, a good footprint overseas, and that more than 80 per cent of the $153 million expenditure was on commissioning or co-commissioning new Australian programs,” he said.

Hours of Australian programs made available on SVOD services in Australia as at 30 June 2020, by genre (excluding where genre is not available).

The figures indicate that, as of June 30, 2020, 618 Australian program titles were available to Australian audiences across the four platforms, representing 3,080 hours of content.

Drama is by far the most dominant genre amongst the titles, accounting for 65 per cent of the programming where the genre is available, with children’s drama the next most represented at 14 per cent.

Of the Australian programs made available to audiences in other countries, all SVODs reported on Australian programs available in the US, while three reported on programs for the UK, Canada, and Spain, and two reported on programs for India, Brazil, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and Argentina.

Reporting for the 2020–21 financial year is due to the ACMA by the end of August 2021 and it is anticipated that these results will be published later this year.

Majority want 20 per cent revenue contribution

The ACMA report comes a week after The Australia Institute released new data showing 60 per cent of Australian’s support subscription-video-on-demand (SVOD) services, like Netflix, Stan, and Amazon Prime spending at least 20 per cent of their revenue on Australian content.

In a survey of 1,006 people in March and 1,000 in May 2021 through Dynata, the Institute found 60 per cent of Australians have some level of concern that children are missing out on Australian history and culture due to the prevalence of American content on media platforms.

The research found that seven in ten Australians use an SVOD service, with Netflix by far the most popular, used by over half (57 per cent) of Australians.

Australia Institute deputy director Ebony Bennett said the high uptake of SVOD services in Australia meant it was crucial the services were required to tell Australian stories as well.

“Local content quotas for traditional broadcasters have helped ensure the sustainability of the television sector and the availability of Australian stories on local television screens and Australians overwhelmingly support local content requirements for streaming services,” she said.

“As the Prime Minister has said, ‘The rule of law must operate the same online as offline’.

“Australians have welcomed streaming services into their homes and these services should invest in Australia’s television industry which has gifted us all with everything from Bluey to Neighbours.”

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