In 2018/19, the Australian screen industry created fantastic work and achieved significant success at home and abroad. Australian stories as diverse as Over and Out and The Nightingale won prizes at the world’s top festivals, while Bluey won over families around the nation. 2018/19 was a year of creative success and cultural impact across all screens and genres.
This year significant changes continued to impact the industry. The challenges and opportunities brought by digital disruption continue to test and shape the sector. Technological innovations – particularly high-speed broadband, mobile viewing and better, cheaper screens – have disrupted the business models that the industry relied on for decades. There is ever-greater pressure on the financing of content and on long-established models of distribution.
The challenge is global, it is shared, it is unescapable – and some of the pressures are becoming more acute.
Broadcast television unites Australian audiences like no other medium, and dramas and documentaries resonate with Australians like no other content: they reflect us, challenge us and enrich us, and also ‘brand’ their platform for years. While broadcasters are growing their own On Demand audiences, commercial broadcasters are still adjusting to the battle for advertising revenue with digital platforms, while the ABC, SBS and NITV are adjusting to their own budgetary pressures.
Cinema remains an incredibly popular and unique venue for a shared, big-screen experience – and several Australian stories, from diverse dramas to big-earning documentaries, are finding great box office success. Overall attendance is healthy but independent titles are finding it harder and harder to secure seats and screens against blockbusters and an ever-increasing number of films from around the world.
Home entertainment is a market in deep transition, with digital revenue now surpassing DVD and Blu-ray sales, and Subscription Video On Demand services growing their reach into Australian homes. This revolution in revenue streams is driven by technological change, and particularly challenges the independent production sector.
There is more content being made than ever before, and there are more choices for leisure time than ever before. That is the reality of the environment we are in. Many businesses are adapting to this new environment – evolving their strategies, diversifying their slates, and finding new sources of funding. Some businesses are thriving. Others are no longer operating.
While the pressures on screen stories and their creators are undeniable, the appetite for Australian stories is incredible, both here and overseas. It is fundamentally good that audiences are empowered with On Demand options, not least because it raises the bar for all of us. Australian creators are responding with Australian content that is cutting through with Australian voices and stories.
Bluey has reinforced how vital it is that Australian children see Australian stories with Australian voices and Australian perspectives – and how vital it is for the whole family to imagine and play. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries has sold into more than 170 countries, inspired a successful spin-off series, and expanded into a feature film that tripled its initial crowdfunding target.
Indigenous Department 25th AnniversaryOnline creators like Superwog continue to achieve extraordinary audiences with a bold and diverse range of content. Australian films – poignant documentaries, tough historical dramas, sci-fi thrillers and romantic comedies with Indigenous Australian stories and stars – are wowing festivals and doing deals.
It is incumbent on us all to capitalise on the demand created by this continued success. It is not guaranteed. There are more screens, more platforms, and more options for audiences and for producers. The pathways that underpin production are evolving and can be uncertain. But they are the paths ahead.
In an environment of increased demand for funding, Screen Australia will continue to support a diverse slate of high-quality, culturally impactful stories across all platforms. We will evolve our programs to make the best use of the funding available. To that end, I look forward to engaging with the industry through formal reviews, regular consultations, and new and ongoing conversations. Our Indigenous Department has marked 25 years of success by consulting with the sector and creating a new strategy for the future. We will also continue to work with all parts of the industry on the cultural change towards equity that we encourage through the Gender Matters program and our wider diversity and inclusion programs.
Despite the deep and evolving tests that face the industry, we can celebrate a diverse range of success. If we comprehend the challenges and the competition that we must overcome, the Australian industry has the stories and the talent to continue to meet the challenges that await us.