Streamers have paused Australian content commissioning

Commissioning of Australian content by foreign streaming services began to slow down months ago.

Commissioning of Australian content by foreign streaming services began to slow down months ago. Photo: Getty

Investment in new Australian screen projects has seized up as the industry waits on local content quotas for streaming giants, an inquiry has been told.

“It’s creating a lot of anxiety and uncertainty and with that, money and cash flow and other challenges,” Matthew Deaner from Screen Producers Australia said.

Laws to set minimum spending on Australian content for streamers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ were promised as part of the national cultural policy in early 2023.

The proposed rules were delayed in September and while legislation is due in mid-2024, a bill has yet to be tabled in the federal Parliament.

The screen producers peak body has been campaigning for a minimum of 20 per cent of revenue investment, but individual streamers have been lobbying for a fraction of that amount.

During the Senate committee inquiry, Mr Deaner outlined what he described as “harsh and unfair” business deals for project development and intellectual property, which have spread from some global streamers to the rest of the local industry, and have been adopted by ABC.

“It’s a major cause for concern and there’s a growing sense of real crisis in the local industry,” Deaner told the hearing into the national cultural policy in Canberra on Tuesday.

A number of streaming services began to slow down Australian commissions a few months ago, Deaner said, adding it was difficult to determine the actual amount global streaming companies are spending on Australian content.

“There’s a number of cases where I think data is deliberately muddied to tell a story that they love to tell, which isn’t necessarily accurate to the situation at hand,” he said.

Whether laws to implement local content quotas will fall foul of the Australia-US free trade agreement has been a longstanding issue on which the government has received legal advice, Arts department assistant secretary Rebecca Rush told the hearing.

The quotas could be based on revenue generated by streamers in Australia, or on their broader expenditure, with the exact model yet to be decided.

The government is committed to having rules in place by July 1, the hearing was told.

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