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Landmark deal for Oz re-runs

Australian free-to-air (FTA) and pay TV broadcasters will now be able to air re-runs of local dramas that had sat on the shelf for years, following a new deal between producers and the actors’ union.

The agreement will also enable broadcasters to stream Australian programmes before their terrestrial premiere.

Screen Producers Australia (SPA) has calculated the new Actors Television Repeats and Residuals Agreement (ATRRA) will give actors a 10% increase over current pay rates as well as the prospect of further residual income from the re-licensing of Australian programmes.

The new deal for the first time includes a standard agreement for dramas commissioned by Australian SVoD platforms including Netflix, which gives actors a 70% loading over three years.

Other additions include a new 10% loading for actors when their shows are played on an associated free streaming service such as pubcaster ABC’s iView, and performance fees for programmes made for free online usage, such as YouTube.

For online productions, actors will get a 57.5% upfront loading for three years and a share in 10% of any revenue generated after 12 months.

The only losers in the deal may be some imported shows, which will likely to be replaced by local content whose license fees were not viable for broadcasters under the previous agreements, which had been largely unchanged since 1982.

The ATRRA pact is the result of lengthy negotiations between SPA and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA).

SPA CEO Matthew Deaner said: “This is a ground-breaking agreement that will unlock the potential that digital technology offers for the benefit of the Australian production industry, Australian broadcasters and to the Australian viewer.

“We approached negotiations with the view that there should be something in it for each of the major stakeholders. Performers clearly needed increased fees for increased rights.

“Networks and investors needed greater flexibility to stream and play programmes across multiple platforms to drive up audiences for Australian programmes and increase recoupment from their considerable investment.”

Very few adult Australian TV dramas are re-licensed to broadcasters after their initial licence periods expire because the repeat fees payable to performers under the old ATRRA were far greater than the market could afford.

This is why once-popular series such as Nine Network’s Water Rats and Seven Network’s Blue Heelers have not been seen on TV since their initial licence periods.

Under the old agreement, FTA networks usually got four screenings of an Australian adult drama over five to seven years. Now they will be able to broadcast a local show eight times in three years at no extra cost.

SPA said this means the networks will have greater flexibility to launch Australian programmes and to use their multi-channels and multiple screenings to build audiences for Australian drama.

Previously, networks bought six screenings of Australian children’s drama over five to seven years. Now for the same cost they get 12 screenings in three years and can then re-license at affordable market rates. “This means Australian programmes can begin to compete with foreign giants like Peppa Pig,” SPA added.

MEAA equity director Zoe Angus said: “The ATRRA was in need of a complete overhaul because it was last negotiated back in 2004 when TV was still king. There was no iView, no Presto, no Australian Netflix. It’s easy to forget how quickly and drastically things have changed.”

The agreement comes into effect for new programmes immediately but existing shows (including subsequent seasons) remain on the old ATRRA unless otherwise agreed to allow for a transition period.

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