Where’s The Drama? Streamers, regulation, and what’s next

strife drama

“The future is looking strong for drama on streaming services.”

Challenging. That’s the word that comes up again and again when talking to the industry about Australia’s scripted drama landscape. 

This month, Mediaweek has been examining scripted content and the fact that in 2024, you’re more likely to find your scripted Aussie drama on a streaming service than on free-to-air broadcasts. Our Where’s the Drama series kicked off in the wake of the most recent Emmy Awards recording their highest-ever share of nominations from streamers. 

We know that Australian viewing habits have been evolving for as long as there has been TV to view, but why are there so many challenges when it comes to creating scripted drama content? 

See Also: Where’s the Drama? Why streamers are scooping up scripted series
See Also: Where’s the Drama? Bringing scripted stories to life on FTA

Alison Hurbert-Burns, executive director of Binge and commissioning & content Foxtel Group, told Mediaweek the challenges largely come down to costs. 

Managing financing, local drivers and international considerations has always been part of the juggle and we see this continuing as the landscape evolves.

“Funding, producing and promoting Australian content has long been part of Foxtel Group’s DNA, and that has extended to Binge’s content strategy,” she said. 

Alison Hurbert-Burns drama

Alison Hurbert-Burns

So what is it that makes drama worth investing in for streaming services? The genre is clearly worth the effort, and Hurbert-Burns points to the fact that consumption of both drama and comedy is continuing to grow on the platform.

“Scripted drama – both international and Binge Originals – is enjoyed and heavily consumed by our audience and continues to be a priority of our content investment.

“The team and I are driven to create and tell Australian stories that stand up as amongst the most popular content on Binge.”

The rising viewership and the subscriptions that come with it mean that it makes sense for the streamers to keep putting their money towards scripted series.

When asked what, exactly, she thought the reason was for scripted drama content predominantly sitting on streaming platforms, Hurbert-Burns said, “Streaming allows audiences to watch and enjoy on their terms, by either joining in the collective, often global experience of week-to-week stories that get people talking or the joy of a longer binge. It has provided a freedom that suits drama and scripted series especially. Allowing you to lean in, remove yourself from distractions and really escape. 

“We see customers binge one show or binge episodes across multiple series, and behaviours do vary, but one thing is consistent: we’re continuing to see audience growth for Binge Originals across the scripted and unscripted slate.”

There’s no argument that streamers are already investing in the genre – Netflix alone reports that between 2019 and 2023, it had invested over $1 billion AUD on new Australian and Australian-related films and shows. 

That number includes over $500 million on kids and young adult programming and over $450 million on adult drama.

But on the horizon for streamers are Australian content quotas. From July 1st, platforms like Netflix, Binge, Stan, and Amazon Prime may be subject to new rules in an attempt to boost the amount of Aussie content on our screens.

Matthew Deaner, CEO of Screen Producers Australia (SPA) told Mediaweek that the impact on the market would “depend on the detail of the regulation.”

Screen producers

Matthew Deaner

“There’s no doubt that one goal of the production industry broadly is for streamers to come into a regulatory model, because they are making a lot of money out of this market. Yes, there is investment into the market at the moment, but it’s likely some of that work is being done because they don’t want to be regulated.

“They want to create a local story in the market to build acquisitions of subscribers, and once that’s achieved, they may not be naturally developing as many stories as they do currently. So there’s a need to build an ongoing, productive, long-term system of support for Australian drama and stories.”

No matter what the details of the eventual quotas are, Deaner said that FTA platforms also have a role to play – particularly when streamer paywalls are an issue for some audiences. 

The future is looking strong for drama on streaming services. However, this is not a reason for free-to-air to completely drop the ball on investing in Australian drama, including for our kids. There’s an ongoing role for public broadcasters and commercial television as well as streamers.”

Mediaweek reached out to both Netflix and Amazon Prime ahead of this story’s publication.

Top Image: Binge’s Strife 

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