Streaming services a “godsend” for drama producers

Free to Air networks might not be the #1 fans of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon but producers see things much differently.

As Drama budgets become tighter with Australian broadcasters, streaming services represent new opportunities.

“It’s an extremely crowded market and there are few clients,” Matt Campbell, Group CEO of CJZ, says of Australian broadcasters.

“The streamers are a godsend and we are talking to them, whether it’s Amazon, Netflix, Apple. I assume everyone is talking to them.

“Networks might not think they are a great idea”

“Having them in the mix is very important for us. Networks might not think they are a great idea, but certainly for content producers it’s a godsend.”

CJZ principal Michael Cordell has previously called for local content minimums on streaming services. But while the new-look Morrison government is yet to set content rules for streaming services, Drama quotas have ensured Free to Air broadcasters are still doing the heavy lifting.

“The quota means they have to do it.”

“Drama is expensive. Networks in the current situation are wanting to spend less and less money. So Drama will always be difficult for them. But the quota means they have to do it. There are opportunities, as we’ve seen with 800 Words (co-produced by Seven), where Drama is made in New Zealand and brought across here to qualify as first-run drama with Drama points,” Campbell continues.

“I guess that’s the game. I think (networks) love it, but Drama is very expensive on their bottom line. It doesn’t always bring the numbers they would like for that kind of expenditure.”

Yet while Overnight ratings for some Dramas are leaner than in previous years, numbers for BVOD continue to rise.

“There are examples of things that have worked but others that haven’t.”

“It’s an expensive business to be in and a long haul. It’s long in development, long in production. It’s not like Entertainment where you can turn things around quickly, where something commissioned today can be on air in 2-3 months. And Entertainment is a lot cheaper than Drama.

“But we’re also in a period where there is so much Drama, with the US putting out over 400 – 500 series a year. Who watches all that? Who has the time to sort out the wheat from the chaff?”

CJZ’s current drama is 10’s Melbourne-made whodunnit My Life is Murder, which follows from comedy series Mr. Black, currently in development for a second season. Through distributor DCD Rights it has sold to UKTV’s Alibi and Acorn in North America, no doubt thanks to interest in its leading lady, Lucy Lawless.

“Lucy wasn’t driving the decision for worldwide appeal. It was actually about looking at ‘Who is Alexa?’ She was across the ditch and perfect,” he explains.

“When we announced her there was a lot more press internationally”

“Certainly she brings an international appeal. When we announced her there was a lot more press internationally because of her involvement. Definitely. She’s such a delight. She is much-loved and I think people will love her in this.”

In addition to more of Gruen and Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery, CJZ is developing a KKK drama Dynamite Hill with a US broadcaster, and has an Aussie-UK true crime project in development.

“There’s quite a bit of interest in True Crime that has come up from Undercurrent. The one we are doing is a co-pro with an international broadcaster,” he teases.

“I can’t talk about it, but it’s big.”

19 Comments:

  1. Jᴏʜɴɴʏ 1ᴘ5

    Streaming will not only be a boom for TV style Drama but will also be that for Australian Films, in fact with the way Cinema is all about blockbusters, those lets say quirky films that generally show at local Independent Cinemas will likely end up on streaming services.

    For instance Quentin Tarantino recently said: “I think when it comes to theatrical movies, I’ve come to the end of the road,” I believe a lot of those types of film-makers will do the same and it will be streaming they turn to including Australian film-makers in general.

    • I guess fans of Australian TV drama will want to agree with you but it’s a competitive world out there for all forms of industry and nothing is handed on a plate, you have to invest even if there is some economic stimulus being provided, it’s also important to make a product suitable for a global market, something which can be deliberately overlooked by some Australian producers who choose to make parochial drama shows which are better understood by Australian audiences.

  2. Always felt Australian TV has completely missed the worldwide drama revival of the last 10 years. The free to air commercial networks still seem to be in there own bubble too and drama usually comes across as an afterthought at best.

  3. Armchair Analyst

    Streaming or BVOD/SVOD services give producers of all sorts of content that would historically not be on FTA tv a place where people can sample them. Then if there is more interest they can build an audience which then gives them better bargaining power when they decide to go to tv. Rostered On which is now on 7mate is an example. started out online via youtube or netflix then was eventually picked up by tv. its better then before. Rove started similarly. from community tv to Nine than to TEN. difference internet has a much larger potential audience.

  4. Mr Black’s in develop for another season? I think it could go well if the directors and writers focus on the viewer feedback over the last season and change tack, while keeping the integrity of the season and the comedy. Can’t wait to see what happens and if 10 (or another network or streaming service) catches and renews it again.

  5. Fans of Nordic Noir know what can be achieved. Norway and Denmark and Sweden are small countries with less location choices than Australia and NZ but they write good thrillers which are copied and remade by others. Australian producers cant expect offers to fall into their lap, there are U.S. based Australian actors, producers, writers, directors who could make a marketable show for international release but are booked out elsewhere. The ABC’s Harrow is a modest but good example of making a show with potential for overseas sales even if it has a well known international star in the role. Making soaps has made Australian drama a thrifty and efficient industry, with numbers trained on set sought after because they save money and keep to budgets.

  6. I think My Life is Murder has the potential to be much better than it currently is (at least the first three episodes). Lucy Lawless as Alexa is a delight and her chemistry with Ebony as Madison is very winning. Having two such talented actors is a fantastic start to creating an awesome series. If they can concentrate on their mentoring relationship and spend less time with Alexa looking at photos, files and her laptop and “solving” the murders (always committed by the “guest stars”), it would be great.

    • I feel as if it’s going to just get better and better over time as the writers, directors and producers get into the groove of Alexa as a character, her relationship with Madison as well as Kieran and her other friends. Over time, they’re just going to become better and more descriptive though time will tell.

  7. The networks also play it extraordinarily safe when it comes to local drama. Look no further than what is offered on free-to-air when compared to streaming services and Pay TV. FTA is left in the dirt in respect to drama.

    And 10 have renewed Mr. Black for a second season?! Ugh.

        • Ok.. Mr Black in development pending a renewal. It’s pretty standard to get underway on a second in the hope a network says yes. They wouldn’t say yes without a producer coming to the table with plans anyway, so it makes sense.

          • Thank you for clarifying. I wasn’t aware that producers had to pitch (so to speak) additional seasons prior to renewal (of a scripted comedy anyway), other than by expressing an interest to produce more episodes. I can understand that networks would want to know a bit about the story arcs of a prospective new season of a drama, but scripted comedies generally do not tend to have unresolved story arcs come season’s end. An interesting insight.

        • The punctuation, you have to pay attention to commas.

          My Life is Murder, is totally carried by Lawless, and I can’t see it surviving long with just that. Producers need to put more work into the scripts if they are to compete in the global market. The rest of the characters are superficial, the murder plots silly and obvious and it’s just bland. As it stands the best thing about it is the cat. Knight and Clarke’s The Fast Lane would some thing to study.

          • Nah, the best thing is Lucy “Flawless” Lucy. Then how good (warm and sunny) Melbourne looks. Then Captain Thunderbolt. And then Madison. Everything else about the show … could use some serious improvement.

        • Lucy Lawless apparently signed a contract for five seasons, but … I can’t see it being renewed at its current level of quality. Maybe the international sales will be enough to score a second season? I keep fearing that Channel 10 only agreed to bankroll My Life Is Murder on the condition that Lucy Lawless is a contestant on that awful looking “Masked Singer” competition show!

          • I apologise for any confusion. I only meant that Lucy Lawless is contracted for five seasons, not that seasons 2 to 5 will ever happen (or have been announced / renewed). Lawless confirmed this contractual tidbit in a recent interview: parade.com/907930/paulettecohn/lucy-lawless-on-her-new-series-my-life-is-murder-and-fitting-into-her-xena-warrior-princess-costume-for-the-25th-anniversary/

            Q: Are you in this for the long run if they want to do multiple seasons?

            A: Oh, yeah. I’m contracted to do five, and I’m out.

  8. Streaming TV services provide an alternative to the reality dross that FTA networks offer. No wonder viewers are watching the alternative.

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