The Australian screen industry employed approximately 55.000 people and contributed over $6 billion in valued-added to the Australian economy in 2021/22, making it the largest creative contributor, according to the latest survey from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which covers the financial year 2021/22.
The eighth “Film, Television and Digital Games” survey highlights the strength of the Australian screen industry with large gains in employment and growth in digital games. For the first time, data covering film and video distribution businesses and film exhibition businesses has also been included.
“It is really exciting to see employment opportunities and career pathways for our talented and skilled workforce are on the rise, and that the billion-dollar digital games sector is booming. This proves that no matter what your area of passion is, there are more opportunities than ever to seek a career in the Australian screen industry,” said Graeme Mason, CEO of Screen Australia.
● INDUSTRY EMPLOYMENT ON THE RISE
One area which has seen significant growth is employment. Total industry employment has grown by 37% since 2015/16, excluding distribution and exhibition businesses, which were not included in the previous survey. This reflects the scale of the screen workforce, its strength and vital contribution to the Australian economy, the report notes.
Of the 55.126 people employed in the industry over the 2021/22 period, the largest proportions were seen in film and video production (26.808) and exhibition (11.213), with the largest growth occurring among digital games developers, who saw a 203% increase compared to 2015/16.
Although the recent production boom has increased employment opportunities for workers in the industry, it also highlights short-term challenges such as sourcing crew, the report highlights. This has prompted the introduction of additional initiatives such as Screen Australia’s Industry Development Programs for below-the-line roles to maintain the momentum in meeting these demands.
● FINANCIAL ACTIVITY TRENDS DIFFER ACROSS SECTORS
The survey reveals film and video businesses have seen significant growth in output (or industry value-added) since 2015/16, increasing by 43% to $1.611 million in 2021/22. This increased output has led to a significant increase in income for film and video production businesses, growing by 75% to $4.575 million in 2021/21.
The data showed that film and video production businesses received significantly more post-production, digital and visual effects (PDV) services income compared to 2015/16 ($389 million, up 193%) – reflecting a trend of production businesses bringing more PDV work in-house. However, film and video production businesses have also seen significant increases in expenses (104% growth since 2015/16), driven largely by rising labour costs.
For film and video post-production businesses, $604 million total income was generated in 2021/22 (increase of 34% since 2015/16), while value-added increased by 23% to $374 million in 2021/22. The 2021/22 survey includes film and video distribution and film exhibition businesses. These sectors reported a combined $2.757 million of income and an aggregated profit of $155 million.
“Film distribution and exhibition businesses have experienced significant hardship over the past few years, but it is heartening to know that watching a film at the cinema continues to be Australia’s most popular cultural pastime,” Graeme Mason said.
Meanwhile, commercial free-to-air broadcasters generated a total income of $3.746 million (decrease of 17% from 2015/16) and saw a decline of 9% to $1.857 million in value-added. Subscription broadcasters and channel providers generated a total income of $4.431 million (decrease of 27% from 2015/16) and also saw a decline of 53% in value-added (to $1.186 million in 2021/22).
“We acknowledge there are challenges for the sector, such as subscription broadcasters and channel providers and commercial free-to-air broadcasters seeing a decline in income and value-added, partly driven by increased global competition,” Graeme Mason commented.
● BOOST IN FILM AND VIDEO PRODUCTION ACTIVITY
The survey results found that total hours of television produced increased by 1.7% since 2015/16, with strong growth in broadcast hours of particular genres, such as television drama (70%) and documentary (165%). However, total cost increased by 45%, driving up average cost per hour for television productions.
For non-television film and video production, there was significant growth between 2015/16 and 2021/22 in numbers of feature films (133%), film documentaries (46%), short films (152%), and short form online content (60%). Average cost per production declined for feature films (-35%), and short films (-85%), and increased for film documentaries (5%) and short form online content (76%).
● SUBSTANTIAL GROWTH IN DIGITAL GAMES
A notable area of growth identified in the survey is digital games. During 2021/22, digital game development businesses produced 299 games, which was a 68% increase since 2015/16, with multiplatform games having the largest increase in productions (325%).
Despite an increase in expenses for digital games businesses of 282% between 2015/16 and 2021/22, this sector reported a 204% increase in operating profit before tax, reaching $84 million in 2021/22, reflecting the strong income growth (265% since 2015/16) in the industry.