I am pleased to present Screen Australia’s Annual Report for 2019/20, which the Board approved at its meeting on 24 August 2020.
2019/20 was shaping up as a strong year for stories and industry until the Coronavirus (COVID-19) reached Australia. Screen Australia responded quickly and comprehensively by:
contributing more than $1 million in emergency funding assistance to Screen Australia–funded productions forced to shut down or go into hiatus due to COVID-19
reallocating Production Investment funding to the Story Development fund, which provided more than $2 million in funding across Premium Plus and the Premium Story Development fund since April 2020
working with the Australian Film Television and Radio School, industry and other agencies to develop COVID-Safe Guidelines
working with the Australian Government to develop the Temporary Interruption Fund, which will support local film and television producers to secure finance and start filming
providing an additional $1.6 million to 30 June 2020 to support projects that were able to continue working remotely and assist those with additional COVID-19 compliance costs to resume production, with further support to come for others in 2020/21.
COVID-19 continues to have a significant impact on industry and audiences. However, many Australian stories have found success this year, and will continue to reach existing and new audiences. For 2019/20, Screen Australia is proud to report:
continued success for drama and documentary television across broadcast, subscription and online platforms
strong box-office results for drama and documentary features
original and innovative online content
significant international sales of Australian stories and content.
In 2019/20, a wide range of Screen Australia–supported drama screened on free-to-air television networks, as well as subscription television and video-on-demand platforms.
Thirty-three Screen Australia-supported dramas screened on broadcast television in 2019/20: Mystery Road series 2 (ABC) averaged 1.2 million viewers; The Hunting (SBS) averaged 624,000 viewers and became the highest-rating Australian drama series in SBS history; Seachange (Nine) averaged 997,000 viewers, and episode 1 became the highest-rating Australian adult drama debut of 2019/20 with an average of 1.3 million viewers; and MyLifeIsMurder and The Secrets She Keeps both averaged more than 700,000 viewers on Ten1. Foxtel’s Lambs of God took home nine Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) awards, while Stan’s The Commons and The Gloaming led the platform’s summer programming.
Bluey (ABC) is immensely popular both globally and in Australia. Bluey is reaching audiences in more than 110 territories, including the US, UK and China, while series 1 recently won the International Emmy® Kids Award for best preschool program. At home, Bluey was the highest-rated Screen Australia–supported television series for 2019/20, with the first 26 episodes of series 2 averaging 1.4 million viewers in the 6.20pm timeslot on ABC Kids2. Between launching in March to the end of 2019/20, the series had 63 million program plays on iview3. Groundbreaking Indigenous animated series Little J & Big Cuz (SBS) was also commissioned for a third series.
A diverse slate of documentaries occupied our screens in 2019/20. ABC documentaries were popular with television audiences, with Miriam Margolyes… Almost Australian and Maralinga Tjarutja averaging 1 million and 785,000 viewers respectively4. Love on the Spectrum (ABC) averaged 798,000 viewers and was acquired by Netflix for global distribution5. Screen Australia-supported documentaries attracted strong audiences on SBS, including series 4 of Untold Australia and Warwick Thornton’s The Beach, which was commissioned by NITV.
Australian feature documentaries enjoyed success both at the cinema and on television. Mystify: Michael Hutchence entered the all-time top 10 Australian documentaries at the box office after grossing $1.1 million6, and also averaged 746,000 viewers on ABC7.
The Australian Dream screened at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, grossed $1.1 million in Australia8 and was also popular on ABC, averaging 622,000 viewers for its television premiere9.
Ride Like a Girl was the top Australian feature film in 2019/20, grossing $11.8 million in Australia10. The enthusiastically awaited Miss Fisher andthe Crypt of Tears grossed $3 million just before cinemas were closed due to COVID-1911.
Online content creators continue to produce innovative content. Award-winning Skip Ahead title Rebooted has screened at local and international festivals, and achieved more than 1.7 million YouTube views. YouTube global superstar Wengie’s first scripted show, Parked, attracted 2 million YouTube views, and Australia’sBest Street Racer attracted more than 1.6 million YouTube views. Meta Runner achieved more than 12 million YouTube views and will return for a second series12.
Australian stories continue to be in demand. The number of domestic and international project sales between March and June 2020 increased by 75 per cent when compared to sales in the same 2018/19 period. Sales included Netflix’s acquisition of children’s drama MaveriX while still in pre-production, while The Secrets She Keeps is currently airing in primetime on BBC1 and will screen to audiences on the Sundance Channel for North America.
Screen Australia continued to support a range of policy discussions from the examination of documentary funding programs, to collaboration with the Australian Communications and Media Authority on the Supporting Australian stories on our screens–options paper for the Australian Government.
I would like to acknowledge the work of the Board this year, and thank outgoing member Jenny Taing OAM for her service. I welcome Peter Davey to the Board.
Screen Australia will continue to support industry and screen culture during these difficult times. It remains vital to provide distinctly Australian stories that are valued by audiences here, and around the world.
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28. Metro viewers: for each series: 778,000; 475,000; 695,000; 504,000 and 514,000. Metro viewers: Seachange episode 1: 923,000.↩
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28. Metro viewers = 1,101,000.↩
OzTam (Begin Event Play Data) July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020. Bluey series 2.↩
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28. Metro viewers for each documentary are 719,000 and 489,000.↩
OzTAM and RegionalTAM, 5-city-metro, combined markets, total people, average audience, consolidated 28. Metro viewers = 561,000.↩