Press release from Screen Australia

At an industry forum in Sydney today Screen Australia released never-before-published information about the life cycle of Australian films in a new report, Beyond the box office: understanding audiences in a multiscreen world. The report reveals that the 100 Australian feature films released between 2007 and 2009 have achieved thus far a total audience of around 101million viewings.

Focusing initially on feature films, Screen Australia has developed a new standardised metric to evaluate the number of times content is viewed across its first release life cycle. The report also analyses patterns of screen media consumption in Australia to help understand shifts in media penetration and offer fresh insights into the consumption of DVD/Blu-ray and online video.

Screen Australia Chief Executive Ruth Harley said, “As content makers are now having to adapt to changing audiences, our methods of measuring success must change too. In this rapidly converging media environment, there is no better time to take stock of our audience and consider the best ways to ensure that Australian stories thrive on Australian screens.”

Over the next two days Screen Australia will host Beyond the Box Office forums in both Sydney and Melbourne to discuss the key findings of the research with screen industry leaders.

“This is the year of ‘convergence’ and the Beyond the Box Office industry forums in Sydney and Melbourne mark the largest events on Screen Australia’s calendar so far,” said Dr Harley. “They provide an opportunity to discuss and understand market penetration in a world in which the delivery mechanisms are converging around fast broadband, yet the access points are diverging.”

The report is the first major piece of research to contribute to the Convergence Review. The five key issues to emerge in the research are:

1. The overwhelming trend of recent years has been the addition of new screen activities to old. The proportion of people watching free-to-air and subscription television has remained steady over the last five years, while cinema and console gaming have slightly increased. Participation in DVD or Blu-ray video fell during this time, but online video has offset the fall.

2. There are warning signs that the ongoing strength of old screen activities should not be taken for granted. Early adopters are driving change and free-to-air television has the most to lose. These people tend to be younger, innovative, interested in technology and want to experience life, believing they can ‘have it all’. They have the highest participation rates across most screen activities, yet they are less likely to be watching free-to-air
television than they were five years ago.

3. Gross revenues tell a vital, but incomplete, story about the performance of screen content. Just as content makers need to adapt to changing audiences, so too do the methods of measuring success. Audience size needs to be considered alongside return on investment to ensure a
more comprehensive understanding of performance. For Australian feature films, Screen Australia modelling indicates that box office admissions account for less than 10 per cent of all viewings.

4. The migration of video away from the purchase and rental of physical discs to online services presents an opportunity to better monetise the home
entertainment market. Despite a drop in participation rates, a large proportion of viewings is still occurring via DVD or Blu-ray video. In particular, the rental market accounts for the largest share of viewings for feature films released in Australia. This platform has typically offered low distribution returns, but as formats evolve, new opportunities may emerge for revenue sharing with online aggregators.

5. The ubiquitous nature of television enables Australian feature films to be seen by more people in more areas across the country. Box office is typically seen as the key determinant of downstream performance for Australian feature films. While this may hold true for video on DVD/Blu-ray or online, the same can’t be said for television. Below-average grossing films perform far better on television than their theatrical release would indicate.

“I strongly believe in evidence-based policy making and this research will be a vital component of Screen Australia’s submission to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s Convergence Review,” concluded Dr Harley.

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