US streamers Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Paramount+, as well as local player Stan, have teamed up to release a new report about their investment in Australian content. The report, titled “Streaming for Australia: How Streaming Services are Making a Meaningful Cultural & Economic Contribution to Australia’s Creative Economy,” explains why these streamers are committed to their customers, employees and operations in the country.
However, the campaign group Make It Australian (MIA), which represents organizations including the Australian Directors’ Guild, the Australian Writers’ Guild and Screen Producers Australia, has labelled the report as “unhelpful and lacking transparency.” The MIA campaign believes that the US players and Stan are “fearful” of “long overdue” regulation that would ensure they deliver Australian stories on screen.
Recently, Australian producers, directors, writers, actors and crew have called on Australia’s federal parliament to impose a local content levy on global streamers, equating to 20% of their Australian revenues.
“Regulatory intervention by government only makes sense when there is a problem to solve – and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) data collected to date shows that in 2020 to 2021 financial year, Stan, Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ alone spent over $628 million on Australian content,” the report responded.
However, MIA notes that this figure includes A$450 million of content that is classified as “Australian-related,” with no explanation as to how this category is defined. This leaves an actual expenditure by the combined streaming companies in commissioned or co-commissioned Australian stories in the 2020/21 season at just A$103.76 million, a year-on-year decline of A$18.6 million, according to MIA.
“The majority of that was spent on commissioning new Australian drama, kids content, documentaries, light entertainment, and other genres. Our sector is invested in Australia and is investing in the local screen economy. We are voluntarily reporting our investments in new Australian content and the Australian production sector to the ACMA, and our investment data is being made available to the public for all to see. It speaks to year-on-year industry expansion – not contraction. We are committed to being here for the long haul,” the report added.
“Any intervention into this new and thriving sector risks disrupting successful co-production arrangements, introducing competitive disadvantages and inequities in the market, and encouraging a focus on 'quantity over quality'. Our subscribers value Australian content on our services - and we are providing it. Our subscribers also value the diverse range of content from every continent of the world that we are making available, and want the freedom to choose what they want to watch,” the streamers said.