Prime Video vies to be Australia’s ‘most compelling SVOD service’ via local content push

The Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) industry is firing-up, with Amazon Prime the latest to announce a raft of new content for Australia in 2021. Mumbrella's Zanda Wilson spoke with Prime Video Australia management at its event in Sydney yesterday, to see what the platform has in stall for brands and audiences.

“We don’t see SVOD as a zero-sum game,” head of Prime Video Australia, Hushidar Kharas says, following this week’s Prime Video Presents event, during which the streaming service announced seven new Amazon Original productions.

Everyone knows Australians have an average of three or more subscriptions,” Kharas continues. “We’re making good content, it’s less about ‘how do we create differentiation or competitive advantage.”

Our chat comes after a whopping, and somewhat draining two-hour-long presentation in which Amazon Prime Video announced enhancements to its offering for Australians, with cast, writers and more chatting about their own new shows, and also a first look at four previously announced Australian original productions

Kharas appeared on stage alongside host Joel Creasey, and attendees also heard from Amazon Studios head of originals Asia Pacific, Erika North via video, as well as Prime Video Australia head of content, Tyler Bern.

There were also further announcements about Prime Video’s upcoming broadcast of the Australian Olympic Swimming trials, plus an announcement of the global acquisition of Nine Perfect Strangers outside of the US and China.

Kharas is joined by Bern for our post-presentation chat, and while neither would be drawn on subscriber numbers, the latter insisted the data is showing that Aussies want to watch local content.

“We’ve seen from the data on our service, we’ve seen from linear ratings. We’ve seen from the shows that we’ve launched a date. Australian customers want local content. So that’s, that’s why we’re going to keep continuing our investment.”

That investment is significant. The addition of the 7 new series means Prime Video has now commissioned 14 Amazon Original series in Australia since 2019, investing $150 million in that time and creating 2,500 jobs.

The scale of the Amazon Prime Video platform was perhaps undersold during the event. Two hundred  million subscribers globally, was the number bandied around.

With constant references to championing Australian talent, Prime Video is already following through on that promise, with current and future originals available in over 240 countries – the sort of exposure that wouldn’t have been easy to come by pre-streaming revolution.

Kharas and Bern continue to use the mantra of telling great Australian stories. “It’s very important for our creators to have a global audience,” Bern says.

“The best part about these shows is they’re so good. There are so many great stories in this market that haven’t broken out for one reason or another.”

Tyler Bern and Hushidar Kharas

The new titles announced included a first Amazing Australian Original feature-length documentary made in Australia called Burning, with Cate Blanchett and Eva Orner as executive producers.

The documentary looks at Australia’s summer bushfires over ‘black summer’ in 2019-20, told from the perspective of those who were there, and will launch in over 240 countries and territories on the platform.

With consumers now more conscious about whether brands are doing good for consumers, I ask Kharas and Bern whether helping Aussie creators or discussing climate change comes into the conversation during the process of commissioning content.

Kharas responds that while getting “the best content” is the primary focus, there is a also link between creating content that helps Aussie creators hit the big stage, or that highlights Australia’s climate crises, and how “to position Prime Video as a brand”.

“[But] it’s more about Prime Video being an entertainment destination that has content as relevant to you, because we know that you want to talk about and share [your experiences with good content] with people around you.”

Other series include Class Of ’07, a comedy series from writer and director Kacie Anning, while another Amazon Original comedy series called Deadloch will also be produced.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Heart is another new series to join the platform, starring Sigourney Weaver and based on the best-selling book by Holly Ringland.

A six-part comedy sketch show, The Moth Effect, will be created for Amazon Prime Video by Nick Boshier of Bondi Hipsters and Jazz Twemlow of Tonightly.

Those title announcements were followed by four first-looks for previously announced Amazon Originals Back to The Rafters, Luxe Listings Sydney, Kick Like Tayla and The Wilds.

Joel Creasey, Nick Boshier, Jazz Twemlow and Tyler Bern

Without disclosing about subscriber numbers, Bern says getting seven more Original productions in the pipeline is off the back of the success of previous local content.

“We’re very happy with what we’ve launched, that’s why we’re doing more… [the shows] have all been hits, and we’re going to continue to commission Australian content because it is working.”

More sports content also arrives off-the-back of Amazon Prime Video’s previous AFL documentary content, and live swimming broadcasts.

Warriors On The Field will be presented by former AFL premiership winner Michael O’Loughlin, and is set to tell the stories of three inspiring Indigenous AFL players.

On the swimming side, a four-part docuseries Head Above Water will follow elite Australian swimmers in the lead up to the Olympic Games in July, and will roll out in June.

Kharas and Bern reveal that documentaries like Head Above Water aren’t necessarily seen as “complementary” content alongside Prime Video’s live swimming coverage, yet the series feels like the perfect build-up to the Olympic trials.

“What we’re very excited about is the fact that we have a documentary that follows swimmers to a live event that we have. It’s unprecedented for Amazon to do that,” Bern explains.

“So we’re excited that we’re going to be able to give our customers kind of a holistic swimming journey.”

It was also revealed that Amazon Prime Video’s Australian Olympic Swimming Trials coverage will be hosted by sports broadcaster Matt White, and that he’ll be joined by experts and former Olympians Grant Hackett, Nicole Livingstone and Annabelle Williams.

The swimming will run from 12-17 June on Amazon Prime Video, which is available to Amazon Prime Video subscribers at no added cost, unlike Stan Sport which has an additional fee on top of the Stan subscription.

Kharas says there are still plenty of opportunities for advertisers to get involved. “It is a unique audience that you don’t really get access to in other ways. So there’s definitely a lot of value – not just in Prime Video, but the overall Amazon-specific audience that you can buy it through Amazon ads.

“If I was a brand manager and I wanted to look at ways to target these customers, I think that [Amazon ads] would be a really good differentiator.”

Australian swimmer Bronte Campbell in Head Above Water

Any decision on future sports broadcasting will be made on its own merits. “It’s a matter of us evaluating our slate from a holistic kind of global perspective and then zeroing in on what we have on Prime Video Australia.

“Then looking at what live sports rights are available, how much they’re going to cost, when are those rights coming up and making a determination whether or not they’re going to create the right value for our customers.”

Kharas adds that it’s about looking for if there are “underserved audiences or if there’s an opportunity to innovate” around that sport.

Bern sums up: “It’s about value, and trying to do what we believe makes our streaming service best in class.

“We think that a mix of local content, global content, live sports, is the right mix for us to really create the most compelling, SVOD service in Australia.”


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