Industry groups accuse Streamers of “conflating” spend on content

Screen Producers Aust., Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Aust. Writers’ Guild & the Aust. Directors Guild ask if the bulk of Streamer investment is going to Sport?

Industry groups including Screen Producers Australia, Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, Australian Writers’ Guild and the Australian Directors Guild have jointly questioned the accuracy a report which claimed over $600m expenditure by the SVOD sector.

The report refers to $628.9 million expenditure by subscription video on demand providers in 2020-2021 including Stan, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Paramount+.

ANZSA claimed 58% of that cost went to commissioning new Australian programs in drama, kids, documentaries, light entertainment, and “other genres” with 42% in licensing classic Australian programs.

But the Make It Australian campaign, driven by the four industry bodies, claim the report lacks transparency and says the businesses are fearful of regulation.

The figure includes $450 million of content that is classified as “Australian-related” only with no explanation of how this category is defined.

This leaves expenditure by the combined streaming companies in commissioned or co-commissioned Australian stories in 2020-21 at $103.76 million, a year-on-year decline of $18.6 million, albeit in the midst of a pandemic.

The industry groups believe it refers to Sports programs, including live sports, conflating the investment numbers.

“Reporting of investment by the streamers should deliver robust, valuable evidence for policymakers on the uptake and spending on original Australian stories, but the current data falls well short of that expectation,” said Screen Producers Australia CEO Matthew Deaner.

“It’s reported that revenue earned from Australian audiences by global streaming technology businesses will reach $2.5 billion by 2023. This represents as little as 0.3% of the $37 billion these streaming platforms reportedly have to spend on content worldwide.

“We are facing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to safeguard and strengthen Australian stories for future generations. This moment has been over a decade in the making, with countless reviews, submissions and reports, so the time to act is now,” said Deaner.

They also call for better distinction between ‘spending’ and ‘investment’, noting that crew accommodation or advertising on global social media platforms does not provide any direct benefit to the screen sector.

“We know there is a hunger for Australian stories here and abroad, and the creative talent to tell them is ready and willing. We need investment in the creators who generate enduring stories and ongoing intellectual property,” said Australian Writers’ Guild Executive Director Claire Pullen.

“Conflated numbers and vague categories don’t provide a strong grounding for data to shape policy decision, and this appears to be a loose attempt to hinder the momentum of much needed and long called for regulation,” said Australian Directors Guild Executive Director Alaric McAusland.

“There is clearly audience demand for fresh Australian storytelling that reflects the diversity of our nation that our world-class performers and crew are helping to deliver time and time again, and we need genuine investment by the streamers to keep that content flowing through,” said Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Chief Executive Erin Madeley.

ANZSA rejects calls for local quotas, claiming the screen sector has never been healthier in Australia, with strong investment and production activity.

“We are making an economic contribution to the production sector and the creative economy as investors and partners. We are partnering with more than 35 Australian production companies and local broadcasters, making significant investments in new projects, commissions and co-commissions, and to date we have invested over $500 million in new and established Australian talent,” it said in its report.

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