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.”