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ABC Commercial

Programming Profile

ABC Commercial on meeting growing demand for Aussie stories


Karen Quinn, Manager of Content Sales at ABC Commercial, showcases the distributor’s slate for MipTV and discusses the new global demand for Australian programming.


As ABC Commercial prepares for MipTV, the sales arm of the Australian public broadcaster has come up with a diverse and eclectic slate that reflects the television renaissance the country has experienced over the past two years.


For Karen Quinn, the distributor’s Manager of Content Sales, offering the best of Australia’s stories to the rest of the world is a strong move. “Taking our award-winning Australian stories to global audiences is what we have been tasked to do and we are excited about the breadth of our multi-genre slate this year,” says Quinn.


Karen Quinn

In Australia, unlike many other content markets, the pandemic served as a tipping point in terms of the proliferation of new production companies and fresh voices, as production was able to continue in some areas while other markets were in lockdown.


“We are exceptionally lucky in the producers that we partner with and the high calibre of programming that they produce,” says Quinn. “They include Wooden Horse, the producer of Mother & Son and which recently won Screen Producers Australia’s Breakthrough Business of the Year, and Windmill Productions, creator of Beep & Mort, which started as a stage show and is now two beautiful seasons for pre-schoolers, produced for the ABC. It was nominated for Best Live Action Series at KidsScreen this year and has been recently nominated for a Rockie Award.”


In a new focus for the distributor, Quinn says opportunities have opened in the North American and Latin American markets. “We see possibilities in the North American landscape, which has been changing so much recently. We’re really excited about discovering new platforms and being more expansive. Our goal is to have our content across every new platform opportunity possible.”


Following her trip to C21’s Content Americas event in Miami in January, Quinn says she saw a new wave of demand for dubbed ABC content, particularly in Spanish and French.



“White Fever
White Fever

Multi-language dubbed content offerings were born of the pandemic era, Quinn adds. “The Covid period was a time when we were assessing how to make our content work harder for us and moving into Spanish- and French-language dubbing has opened a new raft of clients. We’re seeing new opportunities across the international market.”


The advent of free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels globally is another growing area of opportunity for dubbed and traditional content. “Everyone’s moving into FAST channels, and this presents different opportunities across licensing or providing content to partners that have new channels. We’ve been asked for a range of different languages outside of English so that we can support these FAST channels during a phase of exponential growth,” says Quinn.


Factual and children’s content have emerged as the most sought-after genres for both dubbed and FAST channels. The ABC itself is looking to move into FAST and is expected to make announcements in this area later in the year.


Much of the scripted, factual and comedy programming that has seized the attention of international audiences has been created or supported by the ABC. Quinn says recent breakthroughs abroad for series like The Newsreader, Aftertaste and Beep & Mort have certainly shifted buyer expectations and appetite.



“Mother & Son
Mother & Son

“It’s interesting that when we see Bluey on Disney globally it’s an accepted phenomenon, but in the old days the accents would have been a problem. What we have witnessed is that audience acceptance always comes down to a strong script; if it has a great script that’s what people are now leaning towards. Whether it’s Australian content or Korean, as long as the scripts are really strong that’s where the appetite for the content is,” she says.


A key example is culinary comedy Aftertaste, which has already garnered multi-territory appeal with sales to Acorn, Stan, Netflix in ANZ, the Nordics, France, the UK, Spain and Latin America, and Amazon in English-language territories. It was also selected for Series Mania and Berlinale Series Selects.


Quinn says the ABC’s new comedy White Fever also promises to tap diverse audiences as it tackles race issues through the lens of an Australian-Korean adoptee. Created, co-written and starring playwright Ra Chapman, the series is a fresh take on romantic comedy, with a cast including Chris Pang (Crazy Rich Asians), who also serves as an executive producer.


Quinn adds that the globally competitive production values of Australian programming make the new slate of productions even more compelling to buyers.


“We have the series version of the feature film Ladies in Black coming to our slate from Bunya Entertainment, which is visually stunning, such a high-quality, beautiful piece. In terms of cast, we were able to secure Debi Mazar and we’ve got Miranda Otto starring and Gracie Otto directing,” she says.




“Projects like these, and The Newsreader, mean we have a seat at the table. ABC Commercial and ABC TV are known for making quality programmes, which we always have done. I think the Covid period allowed Australia to be one of the few countries still producing content and opened a rich opportunity for us to make wonderful world-class content, and we’ve got people’s attention.”


In many ways children’s content has retained the reputational benchmark for the ABC globally, and despite shrinking investment industrywide, the broadcaster remains a champion of the genre. “Children’s content sells really well for us internationally, whether that’s Canada or the UK, New Zealand, Middle East and North Africa, Asia and the US.”


New children’s programming, including Tilt Media’s first preschool series Fizzy & Suds, promises to reach multi-territory and multi-language audiences.


She adds that very few people are making and investing in children’s content, apart from animation, and it is encouraging to see Australian children’s programming maintain its global reputation and travel so well.



“Muster Dogs Series 2
Muster Dog Series 2

The Wiggles, a franchise that has been on global screens and stages for over 30 years, returns with the sixth season of The Wiggles: Ready, Steady, Wiggle! after another global theatre tour and a documentary film.


Quinn says The Wiggles programming is a testament to the quality of children’s content that Australia produces, which is not only returnable but universal in its appeal and proven to be multi-generational.


“All our clients that buy The Wiggles continue to see strong audience results. It’s still getting the numbers and, musically, they recently passed the one billion streams mark. People love The Wiggles; they are highly searched for, especially in North America, on children’s platforms. It’s one of those shows that can sell everywhere,” she says.


In North America, The Wiggles’ distribution partners include Treehouse, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It also airs on Sky Kids in the UK and on TVNZ in New Zealand, while it is also available on specialist kids streaming platforms around the globe.



“Miriam Margolyes: Impossibly Australian
Miriam Margolyes: Impossibly Australian

Outside of scripted, Quinn says ABC Commercial is excelling in factual lifestyle and children’s content, which provides a balance to the time taken to produce high-end scripted programming.


From Blackfella Films comes factual social experiment series Meet The Neighbours, which Quinn says should resonate globally as people increasingly leave cities for regional areas where there is an abundance of work. “There is a fear that regional areas will turn into ‘ghost towns’ – as the young generation tend to leave for the big cities. With all these ‘outsiders’ coming in to try a new life, will the local communities embrace them? Will they be able to become part of the community?”


Iconic British actor Miriam Margolyes returns in a new Southern Pictures series called Impossibly Australian. “She is a personality that always performs strongly, and in this series she is recovering from a heart operation. Miriam travels around Australia with a commitment to keep moving and on a mission to discovering new things,” says Quinn.


Also in factual is true crime documentary series The Whiteley Art Scandal, which looks at the period after notorious artist Brett Whiteley’s untimely death during which questionable or fake paintings hit the market.



“Living with Devils
Living with Devils

For nature enthusiasts, Quinn highlights Living With Devils from award-winning wildlife documentarian Simon Plowright, who provides a uniquely personal look into the life of the endangered Tasmanian Devil. “It has a gentle conservation message and there’s a story of human redemption as part of the epic wildlife and Tasmanian wilderness scenery,” she adds.


Quinn says the project’s high-end production values will hopefully have an affinity with many of ABC Commercial’s natural history clients.


“There every reason for us to be feeling very optimistic about the market in 2024. It’s going to be an exciting year!” Quinn concludes.