Aussie students prefer watching local fare online

Tertiary students in Australia would rather watch online  documentaries such as John Pilger’s Utopia and Gilliam Armstrong’s Love, Lust & Lies and Aussie features than Hollywood blockbusters.

That’s apparent from a list of the most popular videos streamed in 2014 on Kanopy, an online platform for universities, colleges and their students.

Excluding instructional videos, 20 of the 30 most watched titles in Australia last year were local productions. Silver Linings Playbook is the only recent Hollywood film to figure in the top 30.

“Students have access to hundreds of US blockbusters yet they are choosing to watch videos like Utopia, Freedom Writers or Samson & Delilah more regularly than the mainstream US blockbusters,” Kanopy CEO Olivia Humphrey tells IF.

“Crossing the Line, Samson & Delilah, Ten Canoes, Muriel’s Wedding, Looking for Alibrandi, Head On, Lantana and My Brilliant Career all outperform even The Hunger Games.

“It's surprising because student viewing behaviour on Kanopy goes against the commonly held logic that the student demographic only wants to watch US blockbusters.”

That survey, of course, ignores the Hollywood films and TV series that are illegally downloaded daily by Australians, which presumably would include a chunk of the student community. 

Now based in San Francisco, Humphrey launched Kanopy in Australia in 2008 as a DVD distribution service to university libraries. She used the profits to invest in the streaming service which started in 2010.

Since then it has expanded to New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Middle East, South Africa and the US, now its largest market. An office in the UK will open soon.

Kanopy has deals with hundreds of Australian suppliers including Roadshow, Madman, Umbrella, EOne, the ABC, SBS and the National Film and Sound Archive as well as filmmaker/distributors such as Pilger, the late Dennis O'Rourke, Electric Pictures, Haydn Keenan's Smart Street Films and Princess Pictures.

Students access the site via their institution’s Kanopy video portal and can watch any titles they choose for free. The libraries pay for student access to the films out of their library collection development budgets.

Libraries buy a 1-year license to any film for $250 or a 3-year license for $625 which gives unlimited views for the term of the licence. They can also purchase a license to a collection of films for a discounted price.

“Kanopy offers a unique royalty model for our filmmakers,” Humphrey says. “We return a minimum of 55% of each sale, with no deductions, back to the rights owner. Our aim is to create a sustainable economy for filmmakers in a transparent environment, so filmmakers can log in to see a variety of live statistics for their films such as where their films are being viewed and via which institution, and which part of the film was viewed.

“Kanopy is certainly playing a part in supporting a sustainable economy for Australian film by ensuring our filmmakers and distributors receive the majority share of every sale we make, and have full access to an analytics portal to better understand their audience viewing behaviour on Kanopy.”

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