ABC boss vows to tackle the drift away from linear TV

Just 11 days into his job as the ABC’s Director of Television, Richard Finlayson has affirmed the broadcaster’s commitment to Australian drama and children’s programming.

In his first public address Finlayson identified one of his major challenges as appealing to audiences who are increasingly watching content online. 
“According to LEK consulting, over 50% of viewing in the 18-24 demographic is already on-demand,” he told Screen Australia’s Jobs, Dollars, Hearts and Minds conference in Canberra.

“It will be 80% as early as 2017 and older demographics are close behind. We cannot afford to be complacent about the impact of this shift. Add to that the local aspirations of global content makers and distributors, rising costs and declining returns – and there will be plenty to think about.

“But thankfully, there actually is a silver bullet solution. If you understand your audiences, and provide them with compelling Australian content, where and when they want it, you have a great future. Public broadcasters can do that – and Australia needs us to do that.”

The former SBS executive paid tribute to his predecessor Kim Dalton for commissioning more than 91 hours of quality local drama in 2011/2012. “The ABC’s aim is to continue to increase the volume and diversity of drama on our screens,” he said.

Among upcoming productions he mentioned Parer, the story of the legendary WW2 filmmaker Damien Parer who was killed in action, and a miniseries based on the Kate Grenville novel The Secret River.

He observed there had been a 230% increase in children’s content over three years helped by increased Government funding and Screen Australia’s investment, citing such shows as Dance Academy, a co-production with Werner Films and ZDF, My Place, Giggle and Hoot, Studio 3, Prank Patrol and Rush TV.

“While the ratings are spectacular, kids are heading inexorably away from scheduled TV. The ABC is there for them with iView, new ABC3 and ABC4Kids portals and great experiential and educational apps like the Play School Art Maker,” he said.