How many Australian originals are streaming video services producing?
So far, Netflix, Presto and Stan aren't doing much to encourage Aussie creativity.
The catalogues of streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) services are dominated by older movies and TV series, many of which are available across multiple providers. However, the marketing suggests the opposite: all the emphasis is on exclusives, and particularly on "original" productions which are not available anywhere else.
This is particularly apparent in the case of Netflix, which endlessly promotes its in-house shows (when was the last time you read a story about Netflix that didn't mention House of Cards or Orange is the New Black?) The logic is simple: if you want to see these shows, you have to subscribe to our platform.
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However, that enthusiasm doesn't translate to creating and funding series in Australia. So far, we have seen just one original production from any of the "big three" streaming providers in Australia: Netflix, Stan or Presto. While that will change just a tiny bit before the end of 2015, if the future of television is streaming subscription services, it's not going to look very ocker based on what's happened so far.
Here's what we know as of September 2015 about the original production plans in Australia for each of the main providers.
Australian shows in production or development: 0
Since its launch in March, Netflix has consistently said that it is "open" to producing content in Australia. However, "open" has yet to translate into a single local commission that has been announced, and we're not holding our breath. Of all the original series Netflix has commissioned, only a handful have been from outside the US, including forthcoming Brazilian action series 3% and a revival of Canadian teen classic Degrassi.
The big barrier for Netflix? Any shows it produces need to appeal to a global audience, not just locals and in particular, they need to appeal to the US, which still accounts for almost three-quarters of Netflix's revenue. Australians are used to watching shows from multiple countries, but Americans are a different story, save the very occasional exception (Downton Abbey is the most recent example that springs to mind).
Is there any hope? We'd place an outside bet on Netflix funding a revival of Kath and Kim, since that show was also a hit in the UK (and is at known in the US through the lower-quality American remake). But whether creators Gina Riley and Jane Turner would be willing to put up with the smaller budgets that typify Netflix productions is another question. The only other Australian celebrity with global appeal that Netflix might pursue is Bindi Irwin, daughter of late "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and the start of several series that have been distributed internationally. However, she's competing right now on the US network version of Dancing With The Stars, which suggests she might want to ditch her child star persona.
Australian shows in production or development: 2
Despite a slow start, Presto looks like it will be the first Australian streaming service to actually put an Aussie production on the air. As we reported yesterday, its new series Let's Talk About will debut in October.
While that's a good start, it's more akin to a YouTube channel than a full-blown series, comprising 10 episodes, each 3 minutes long. While there's no reason that streaming series have to conform to conventional TV times, the reality is we're used to watching shows at that length. Perhaps more to the point, a total of 30 minutes of viewing doesn't mean a lot of working hours for actors, writers or technical crew. Still, it's a start.
Presto has also announced plans for a one-off special edition of veteran Aussie soap Home and Away. Due to screen in December after the series goes on hiatus for the year, An Eye For An Eye will see the return of two former cast members, Dan Ewing as Heath and Lisa Gormley as Bianca. That suggests it actually has its own budget, rather than just being tacked onto regular recording.
Australian shows in production or development: 4
Stan was the very first streaming service to announce plans for Australian productions. In February, it announced plans to develop a six-part series based on horror flick Wolf Creek, complete with original star John Jarratt. But we don't have a broadcast date for that yet, since the original announcement was only for a development deal. That also applies to Enemies Of The State, a planned series about Australian judge Lionel Murphy.
While we're still waiting on those, satirical wine series Plonk took the honour of being the first local commission to appear on an Australian streaming service when it debuted on Stan in June. This was actually series 2 of Plonk, as the first round had been produced for YouTube (and sponsored by Destination NSW). Starring Chris Taylor from The Chaser, it comprises six half-hour episodes. This time around, it's sponsored by the South Australian Tourism Commission. That's brute commercial reality for you it's unlikely the show would have been produced without the sponsorship.
The Australian show you'll get to see next on Stan, and which we're quite excited about, is improvised police comedy No Activity, which will debut in November 2015. This features a highly recognisable cast of Australian actors, including Patrick Brammall (Upper Middle Bogan), Darren Gilshenan (The Moodys), Dan Wyllie (Puberty Blues), David Field (A Moody Christmas), Harriet Dyer (Love Child) and Genevieve Morris (Comedy Inc.). It also boasts guest appearances from Australian musical comedy legend Tim Minchin and Jake Johnson (New Girl).
Stan showed preview footage from this at a media event last month, and it's hysterical. Focusing on what happens to cops when there's nothing happening and they're sitting around, it's laconic and crude and well worth watching. So far, Stan hasn't announced whether it will release all the episodes at once or aim for a more paced rollout. We're really hoping we get to binge.