Stan Original ‘I Am Woman.’ (Photo credit: Lisa Tomasetti).

Stan has warned the Federal Government that mandating minimum levels of spending on Australian content would undermine the streaming industry’s ability to generate the revenues needed to invest in high-quality Australian productions.

Similarly, Amazon Prime Video opposes regulation that would oblige it to screen a prescribed number of hours of Australian programming on its service, claiming that would reduce the non-Australian content selection or lead to the “inclusion of low quality or low viewership content.”

In their submissions to the government’s ‘Supporting Australian Stories on Our Screens’ options paper review posted online this week, both endorse Netflix’s call for a voluntary investment model.

“This model would also mitigate the risk of introducing a new regulatory regime that suffered from the same shortcomings that have led to this review, which became necessary largely because the current content quota system is too rigid and prescriptive and out of touch with audience behavior and trends,” Stan said.

Stressing its significant contribution to Australian drama and scripted comedy since its launch in 2015, the Nine-owned SVOD service revealed the five local productions commissioned in fiscal 2020 had total budgets of $65 million.

They include The Commons, The Gloaming, the six-part thriller The Tourist and the previously unannounced Eden, which will be filmed later this year in Byron Bay.

A co-commission with the BBC, created and written by Two Brothers Pictures’ Harry and Jack Williams, The Tourist will be filmed in South Australia with support from the South Australian Film Corporation, produced by Lisa Scott.

It has 26 productions in development or production, including projects supported by development funds in partnership with Film Victoria and Screen Queensland.

Stan contends that mandating minimum levels of investment in Australian content by streaming services is likely to be “counterproductive, plagued by unintended consequences, and damaging to business models across the sector.”

With some justification, the company headed by Mike Sneesby, which has 115 staff, asserts that regime would disadvantage Stan much more so than its vertically-integrated international competitors, which would be able to more easily satisfy any regulated quotas.

‘LOL: Last One Laughing Australia.’

In his submission, Hushidar Kharas, head of Prime Video Australia, states: “Prime Video does not support, or believe it would be effective to impose, an obligation on subscription streaming service providers to commission Australian content to the exclusion of investments in other areas or dictate investment in specific genres of Australian content.

“Flexibility and discretion to make the right licensing, production and investment content decisions are key components to the successful growth of the industry, together with ensuring delivery of a breadth of locally relevant content.

“Each service will be best positioned to ensure that it is producing and making available the right content, especially the Australian content, that will be appealing to its subscribers.”

It highlights Amazon Original commissions including Endemol Shine Australia’s LOL: Last One Laughing; 10 Australian stand-up comedy specials produced by Guesswork Television; the docuseries The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team; and Seven Studios’ Back to the Rafters, which was midway through the shoot when production was shut down.

Meanwhile Jam TV Australia is making an untitled docuseries which follows six AFL footballers during the 2020 season.

In addition, Amazon Studios is funding the development of a slate of Australian TV shows from an unnamed group of Australian writers, with announcements expected later this year.

The submission also trumpets a raft of acquisitions for the Oz service including Rosehaven, Packed to the Rafters, Palm Beach, Storm Boy, The Dressmaker, Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan and Ride Like a Girl.

McLeod’s Daughters screens on the platform globally and in the US Prime Video licensed The Kettering Incident and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The voluntary scheme proposed by the SVOD services would see the government provide a broad set of guiding principles outlining the streaming industry’s unspecified “meaningful contribution” to Australian content, listing a number of different investment categories.

Adherence to the guiding principles should be voluntary with a government review after three or five years to determine whether “any fine-tuning or regulation was required.”

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