How the networks reach their content points

ACMA last week released its ‘Content Compliance report for 2009’, which tracks Australia content, drama, documentaries and children’s television for Seven, Nine (PBL stations) and TEN.

It found all three networks met minimum requirements for all genres, and exceeded them, which is good news.

The three networks are required to reach 250 points for first release Australian drama, a complex formula made up of different points awarded for Telemovies, Miniseries, Feature Films, Series, and Serials. While a Telemovie such as The Killing of Caroline Byrne gets 4 points, an episode of Home and Away is just 1.

Looking at the way networks exploit the points is an interesting exercise.

It shows Seven played 220 hours for 387 points. Nine, on the other hand played, played just 80 hours of Drama for 300 points.

Nine astutely relied more on Feature Films (4 points) and Miniseries (4 points) than the Series (2.5 points) that dominated Seven’s Drama.

Seven lead the year in first release Australian drama with 220 hours, well ahead of TEN’s 181 hours (including NZ drama) and Nine’s 80 hours (including films and NZ drama).

In recent years Nine has also played many of its Feature Films in summer, frequently late on Saturday nights, because points are awarded for primetime regardless of ratings seasons. Last year it showed films such as Clubland, Jindabyne, Jammed, Irresistable, and Razzle Dazzle. Its first run Series included McLeod’s Daughters, Monster House, while Underbelly, Sea Patrol, Rescue Special Ops all qualify as MiniSeries. 6% of its Drama points were from NZ: Burying Brian.

In contrast Seven dramas Packed to the Rafters, All Saints, City Homicide all qualify as Series. Home and Away as a Serial earns 1 pt per episode. In Drama Seven had no NZ content or films.

TEN dramas Rush and NZ content Orange Roughies, Go Girls, The Hothouse, Outrageous Fortune were all Series, while A Model Daughter: The Killing of Caroline Byrne qualifies as Telemovie, with Neighbours and Out of the Blue as Serial. 20% of its Drama points were from NZ content. There were no films.

Geoff Brown Executive Director of the Screen Producer’s Association of Australia recently told TV Tonight that NZ drama was being bought on the cheap.

“The fact is the networks are being cynical. They’re buying this stuff cheap, they’re programming and scheduling it late at night, they’re doing it just make points,” he said.

The 2009 figures below indicate that of the three networks, Seven was still the leader in generating Australian content, Australian drama, Australian documentaries and Australian children’s television -but was also the biggest buyer of NZ content.

LOCAL CONTENT (55% minimum to be aired between 6am and midnight):
Seven 65% (64% in 2008)
Nine 62% (60% in 2008)
TEN 57% (56% in 2008)

FIRST RELEASE AUSTRALIAN DRAMA (Minimum score 250 points):
Seven 387 (276)
Nine 300 (286)
TEN 265 (268)

Seven 220 (173)
Nine 80 (76)
TEN 181 (170)

Seven 113 (82)
Nine 47 (43)
TEN 38 (24)

FIRST RELEASE AUSTRALIAN C DRAMA (Kids: minimum requirement 25 hrs)
Seven 45.5
Nine 32
TEN 26.5

Seven 85 hrs (31 hrs)
Nine 17 hrs (31 hrs)
TEN 41 hrs (7 hrs)


  1. @Ticky Result of a technically correct, but in substance absurd, decision of the High Court, interpreting an Oz-NZ free trade agreement as having the effect that NZ content must be counted as Oz content and vice versa. Think the decision is named something ‘Blue Sky’.

  2. There is no problem with NZ content being counted as local – little NZ is hardly a threat to Australian production and could hardly be considered culturally foreign (indeed, it is still listed as a state in our constitution just in case it decides to sign up one day). Australia and NZ are moving to establish a single market and it makes no sense to treat television production differently to any other industry. The problem is not the inclusion of NZ content in local content quotas, but the abuse of this by Australian networks, which use it as a cheap way to get around their obligations. What they are doing does not create a stronger Australasian production industry, which co-producing programmes with NZ networks or paying decent amounts for NZ content would, but strips money from it to spend on acquiring foreign content.

  3. @Clint, Rescue Special Ops’ first series had a dramatic arc throughout: a nutter who infiltrated the unit, whilst attempting to knock off various characters here and there.

  4. Part of qualifying for FFC Miniseries funding meant there needed to be a through-line through all of the episodes, which Sea Patrol has historically had. But there have since been changes including the end of the FFC.

  5. Series 1, 2 and 3 of ‘Sea Patrol’ were classified as mini series for extra funding. Series 4 dropped the mini series arc, and become a regular series, also extending to 16 episodes instead of 13. This is why Sea Patrol 2 was called ‘The Coup’ and the 3rd series was called ‘Red Gold’. Although series 1 did not have a name, it centered around a main story arc of Bright Island, and as such was a mini series.

    I’m not 100% sure abour Rescue though.

  6. i am pretty sure as of 2010 a miniseries is deemed equal value as a series. hence sea patrols extension to 16. making miniseries disadvantages international sales though because all seasons need to be treated as seperate series and cannot be sold in a series offer. so if a country bought SP1 and it flopped they likely would not pay for season 2 and by season 4 there is very little int. sales.

    @nudge, no it doesn’t work like that.
    @Michael, the government through ACMA fund a lot of things for networks, in exchange they ask for them to make aussie shows and give jobs to aussies hence the local quotas.

  7. @Brenton Rush is 22 episodes a season, thus not being a miniseries its an actual series. Where nine only do 13-16 episodes for its programs and they are still classified as miniseries but it also has to do with the funding, more funding from 13-16 episode order than 22 episode order.

  8. @Ticky: it’s because of the Free Trade Agreement with NZ. If you look in the Australian Content Standard ACMA has to treat NZ programming as equal to Australian content for the purpose of meeting ‘international obligations’ (i.e. it was probably a bureaucratic stuff-up that nobody intended to make). Seems TEN especially is getting a good run out of it.

  9. I’d like to know what incentive (apart from employing Australian Talent) there is for the channels to show Australian content. What do ACMA give the channels back?

  10. I think it’s disgusting that NZ content can be classified as Australian.

    I guess that explains why Ten have kept Outrageous Fortune in their lineup despite being a huge failure.

  11. I think Sea Patrol and Rescue Special Ops are classed as a mini-series because that is the only way Nine were able to get the funding for it. If they classed it as a series, it would be fair accross all networks.
    Maybe they should base it on hours, not type of show…

  12. How can Sea Patrol & Special Ops qualify as a mini series and Ten’s Rush qualifies as a series. Both Sea Patrol and Special Ops storylines continue season to season with about 13 episodes each season and Nine advertise Sea Patrol as season 1, 2, 3 and 4 not miniseries 1,2,3 or 4.
    That’s why Rush on Ten is a series cause it’s storylines continue and each 13 or so episodes is a season

  13. Interesting stuff – goes in cycles that the networks struggle achieving their tally, so they hop across the Tasman and buy the Kiwi product – ala Shortland Street in the 90’s. I just wish there was more of a mix in the series/serials. Cops, robbers, crime and misdemeanors and soaps! Oh and rescues. But then shows like Last Man Standing don’t find an audience, as i suspect this new one with the 4 women may not. Cable is the place to find novel, distinctive drama – like America.

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