2021 outlook: CJZ calls for ‘smarter’ production as networks navigate ‘tough time’

The cast of CJZ's ‘Mr Black’.

CJZ CEO Matt Campbell has called on the television production sector “not to take anything for granted” as it continues to adapt to a new climate of content creation in 2021.

While Campbell acknowledges that Australia and New Zealand are two of the “very few places” where content can still be produced on any scale, he says the industry should exercise caution when it comes to the future.

“Like many industries, the production sector had to adapt to new conditions overnight and overall I think we did a pretty solid job.

“However, networks are having a tough time and that flows directly back to our sector, with funding bodies under even more pressure as network contributions to budgets grow less and less.

“Companies are definitely hurting as securing commissions gets harder and harder.

“An international focus overall becomes vital, retaining IP becomes vital, and securing and retaining the very best creatives becomes vital.”

The continued impact of the pandemic is not the only shift in circumstance production companies will navigate this year, with the Federal Government’s overhaul of the fixed content quotas on commercial free-to-air, and the harmonisation of the film and TV Producer Offsets at 30 per cent to take effect in the coming months.

CJZ CEO Matt Campbell.

The initial policy release indicating streaming services would be asked to merely begin reporting their Australian acquisitions to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) was followed by a Green Paper suggesting SVODs and AVODs invest a percentage of their revenue on Australian content in the form of commissions, co-productions, and acquisitions.

Campbell says the ever-growing role of streaming services in what audiences watch means there needs to be a place for Australian content across the different platforms.

“The quota situation is still unresolved and we are all hoping there will be an obligation on both networks and streamers to commission Australian stories,” he says.

“Culturally and economically it will be disastrous if this is not the case.”

He calls on the industry to be “smarter” in the way they produce content, adding that the prominence of streaming services should not come at the cost of free-to-air networks and cinema.

“The arrival of streamers has definitely pushed numbers north but FTA networks cannot follow and we desperately need them in the fold,” he says.

“We know from last year that people watched more content because they were stuck at home with few other options.

“I don’t know how cinemas are going to survive if this continues but I hope they do.

“Great content will always find a home on multiple platforms and it’s our job to deliver the very best to our audience however they choose to consume it.”