As the Make it Australian campaign for local content obligations to be imposed on streaming services intensifies, Netflix is talking up its growing investment in Australian film and TV productions and again rejecting the need for a quota.
Last Tuesday a delegation of screen industry luminaries went to Canberra to continue lobbying federal MPs. On Thursday, Netflix’s PR company sent out a media briefing which listed 16 film and TV titles it had commissioned, co-produced or acquired.
That did not include Gristmill Productions’ The InBESTigators (20 x 30′), a children’s comedy set in an Australian detective agency run by four eleven-year-olds who solve school and neighbourhood mysteries.
Netflix, which co-commissioned the show created by Wayne Hope and Robyn Butler with the ABC, gets all rights outside Australia/New Zealand. Shooting started today.
So was the PR missive a coincidence or a new counter-offensive aimed at dissuading the government from imposing a local content quota?
“It’s not a counter-offensive and not new – we’ve been sharing our position in the AU media for some time,” a PR rep told IF.
“Given the interest around the topic right now, we want to make sure our perspective and investments in Australian content is acknowledged.”
Optimism is growing that the government will introduce a quota on Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime and other streamers as proposed last December by the House of Representatives inquiry into growth and sustainability of the film and TV industry chaired by Luke Howarth.
The committee recommended: “Any future reforms to Australia’s content quota system ensure that commercial and subscription television companies continue to invest in and broadcast Australian programs for general audiences at current levels. In addition, the new quota system should provide that subscription video on demand services invest a percentage of the revenues they earn in Australia, for example 10 per cent, in new Australian content.”
Screen industry execs were encouraged by the turnout at a dinner in Canberra organised by the Parliamentary Friends of the Film Industry, which was attended by Howarth and Mitch Fifield, the Minister for Communications and the Arts.
Screen Producers Australia CEO Matt Deaner told IF: “Momentum continues to build around the Make it Australian campaign and in particular, extending local content obligations to the new media and streaming services. This momentum comes from a united industry, the public and last week Parliament joined us.
“The new media and streaming services are here and they’re welcome. But the industry’s ask is simple: those that benefit should contribute. An expenditure obligation of more than 10 per cent will provide a level playing field, investment certainty, opportunities for our talented Australians to live and work in Australia and arrest our brain drain.”
Some execs believe the government may impose the quota when it hands down the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) update in December – if not before.
Netflix has an estimated 3.5 million subscribers in Australia but according to a study conducted by academics at RMIT and submitted to the Australian and Children’s Screen Content review last year, Australian content accounted for between 2 per cent and 2.5 per cent of its Australian service’s catalogue.
The Netflix screed highlighted the Netflix original series Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette special, Tidelands and the untitled Chris Lilley project and the co-productions Pine Gap, The Letdown and New Legends of Monkey.
Among the acquisitions cited were Cargo, Ali’s Wedding, Wentworth (US, Canada, Korea, India, and Singapore), Rake (multiple territories including Australia, the US, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, India and Indonesia) and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
A Netflix spokesman said: “Netflix invests in Australian content and is in a unique position to bring these stories to our members in Australia and to our 125 million members around the world. We invest in Netflix original Australian projects like the upcoming series Tidelands, currently in production in Queensland, and provide a global platform for Australian content like Hannah Gadsby’s critically acclaimed Nanette special.
“We also co-produce new projects with local Australian broadcasters like The Letdown and upcoming Pine Gap with the ABC. We bring films like Cargo and Ali’s Wedding and second-run content like Rake and Wentworth to members in countries like the US, South Korea, Brazil and the UK. Our excitement for Australian content is not unique.
“The drama production sector in Australia has never been stronger, with highest ever levels of drama content being produced driven by a record level of foreign investment, according to Screen Australia. The key to this growth has been Australian creators making really high quality content that movie and TV lovers around the world want to see, not politicians or quotas.”