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Deep dive into the numbers and data.

Screen Australia report shows $1.5bn spent on drama down under in 2021/22

Stan comedy-drama series Bump

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has welcomed record-breaking figures revealed in the Screen Australia Drama Report 2021/22 but warned “a lot more” needs to be done to address the challenges the sector faces.

Screen Australia’s 32nd annual Drama Report, released today, shows an all-time high expenditure in Australia on scripted production of A$2.29bn (US$1.5bn), made up of a record spend on Australian titles of A$1.51bn plus A$777m on foreign productions.

Among the reasons for the increase is record spending on Australian subscription TV and SVoD, with the number of titles, hours and budgets having tripled since 2020/21.

Spending on free-to-air (FTA) TV and VoD drama from broadcasters and children’s drama across TV and VoD platforms also increased from last year but has not returned to previous highs in either category.

SPA said the report showed a “great result overall” but there is “more to be done, and let’s not forget about the children,” as the report showed an overall decline in production after a peak year in 2018/19.

Only one kids’ title entered production in 2021/22 with financing from a commercial FTA broadcaster, which the SPA labelled “disastrous.” Eight titles were financed by pubcaster ABC, which SPA said is “doing all the heavy lifting for children’s content.”

SPA added that it remains concerned about the continued downward trend in hours and investment from commercial FTA channels overall, pointing to the “damaging deregulation” of the sector under the previous government.

“This harmful deregulation also hastened the trend for the collapse in the number of series/serials produced by commercial broadcasters, with Home & Away (Seven Networks) and Neighbours (Network 10), providing the bulk of series and serials hours in this report.

“These programmes, as well as children’s content, have key roles in developing talent in front of and behind the camera and our sector needs both to continue to ensure a healthy sector with key skills is maintained,” the SPA said.

SPA added its most significant concern is the commercial deals that underpin the expenditure captured in the report on Australian-created stories “are increasingly disastrous for Australian businesses and creators.”

Without a terms-of-trade framework, the SPA said Australian producers are losing creative control and ownership of valuable IP in the titles they create and that “this needs to be fixed as a priority.”

Online streaming services contributed A$186m to 24 titles, representing a significant rise in investment, which the SPA also welcomed as it brings SVoD services closer to the 20% minimum investment requirement it is seeking as an ongoing commitment to Australian screen content.

Meanwhile, the SPA praised the work of the country’s pubcasters, ABC, SBS and NITV, for their “ongoing delivery of steady investment in our sector,” which it said “continues to demonstrate how important it is for the Australian government to provide ongoing, stable, transparent and appropriate levels of funding to our national broadcasters.”

The SPA said the report’s figures point to the importance of the Australian screen industry to the country’s creative economy, “which is likely to be, in total, more than four times as large as this drama report captures.”

It also called for increased investment in skills development and an industry plan for well-managed and permanent growth.

SPA also noted that the report is for drama only “and that Australian audiences value diversity of screen content across all genres,” while the figures for Australian VoD drama applied by Screen Australia include titles that are not likely to be considered ‘Australian’ under the definition applied by the industry regulator, the ACMA.

SPA said it believes a consistent framework for the collection and reporting of screen industry data across all platforms of FTA, subscription and streaming services is of “critical importance.”

Australia’s minister for the arts, the Hon Tony Burke MP, said: “This is a great result and testament to the strength of our local screen industry. It shows the importance of the creative sector and the appetite for Australian drama. It’s fantastic to see Australian stories being told here at home and to global audiences.”

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: “Hitting well over the A$2bn mark is an incredible milestone for our sector, and it’s truly a bumper year for Australian scripted content – to have local productions make up 66% of this spend is extraordinary.

“Distinctly Australian stories continue to captivate audiences here and overseas, with Heartbreak High reaching the top 10 on international Netflix charts, and shows from Bluey to Bump taking the world by storm.

“We know the value and power of Australian children’s stories, and it’s vital for our kids and our national identity that Aussie children are able to see themselves reflected on screen.”

The full drama report can be read here.