Amount of Australian drama on commercial television drops 68% in two decades | australian tv


The number of Australian TV dramas broadcast has declined dramatically over the past two decades despite the proliferation of additional channels and the arrival of streaming services in 2015.

A new study from QUT, Australian TV Drama Index, found that the number of hours aired on commercial television – Seven, Nine and Ten – fell 68% between 1999 and 2019, declining at a compound average rate of 7% per year.

The industry’s broader image for Australian TV stories is also bleak.

For all broadcasters, including ABC, Foxtel, Netflix, and commercials, the total hours of adult TV drama decreased by 20%.

By 1999, the commercial networks produced several long-running dramas that were popular with audiences and supported by a strong advertising market.

But the advent of digital multi-channels, streaming services, competition for advertising dollars from Google, and changes in global television business have made television drama less profitable. Reality TV such as My Kitchen Rules and The Voice had become more popular with audiences than local prime-time dramas.

The arrival of Netflix and more recently of Stan, Apple + and Disney + had not resulted in an explosion of new local content. Only 22 hours of drama were ordered by all streaming services combined in 2019, roughly the same amount as produced by Foxtel.

The government has proposed a 5% quota for Australian content on streaming services and Foxtel in its green paper on media reform.

The struggling screen industry says 20% of local revenues from streaming services should be spent on new Australian drama, documentary and children’s content, to bring us in line with France and Canada.

The decrease in hours of fiction was not obvious because the number of titles did not decrease as significantly as the number of episodes per series.

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Long-running series such as McLeod’s Daughters on Nine and Blue Heelers on Seven once dominated the shows and attracted millions of viewers. The average series fell from 21 episodes per title in 1999 to just seven in 2019, a drop of 60%.

Researchers say that despite budget cuts, the ABC has been the most important source of Australian drama since 2009. The ABC told the Green Paper on Media Reform that it was the country’s top commissioner in the country. new Australian content, investing over $ 468 million in the independent sector in the past. five years.

“The ABC’s commitment to Australian drama and its success in making them available suggests that a more solidly funded ABC is an effective and efficient tool to modernize cultural policy goals for the dynamics of the 21st century,” said declared the QUT report.

QUT figures do not include longtime network soap operas Home and Away (Seven) and Neighbors (Ten). However, even when included, the number of hours fell further, from 531 hours in 1999 to 291 hours in 2019, a 45% drop.

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Free TV, which represents commercial broadcasters, said the cost of an hour of drama production more than doubled over the period, with audiences demanding high production standards.

“Each year, we broadcast approximately 25,000 hours of Australian programming to markets across the country,” Bridget Fair, Managing Director of Free TV, told Guardian Australia. “In 2020, Free TV broadcasters broadcast more than 358 hours of dramatic programming. Each commercial television channel has met its fiction quota obligations, despite the impact of Covid on production activity and revenues.

“It is disappointing that the QUT report does not recognize the full contribution of commercial broadcasters to Australian drama production, Australian content in general, or the realities of dramatic consumption in the modern media landscape.

Fair also criticized the researchers’ decision to exclude soap operas, which were the “powerhouses of Australian script production.”

“Commercial broadcasters spent over $ 1.5 billion on Australian content in 2019/20. The latest ACMA program spending reports showed that commercial broadcasters spent over $ 84 million on Australian drama, more than any other industry.

Children’s drama levels were set to drop dramatically after the government introduced a “simplified” quota system for drama, children’s television and documentaries in September.

The quota system which had been temporarily suspended during the pandemic in 2020 had been reinstated but there was now no obligation for networks to produce children’s television.

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