Stan will invest in local content – but only if it appeals to international markets

Stan doesn’t want or need quotas to make local content, despite calls for streaming services to be subjected to the same requirements as traditional broadcasters from both politicians and production houses.

It will, however, only make the investment if the production shows promise for international success.

Stan needs its Aussie content to have international appeal 

Nick Forward, Stan’s chief content officer, tried to avoid directly addressing Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s earlier calls at Screen Forever for Stan to have quotas enshrined in regulation – “To be honest, I’m not really sure I want to comment on policy generally” – but he did push its existing local credentials.

“I think we’ve demonstrated that we are investing in Australian content and each year that investment is continuing to grow, so I can only kind of speak for us, really,” he said on stage with The Australian Financial Review’s Paul McIntyre.

Indeed, he noted, Stan took the risk on Jungle’s No Activity, when the service had just 7,000 subscribers.

“No Activity was commissioned about two weeks after we launched. We had about 7,000 customers. It certainly, economically, was probably quite a silly move to make. But we felt it was important. It was important from a brand positioning point of view, it was important to tell stories that really spoke to the audience we’ve got here. It’s important to differentiate us from the international players,” he said.

Earlier at the Screen Forever conference, Kevin Whyte, managing director of Token, said the screen industry needed to be careful not to measure the success of local productions by their take-up overseas, but today Forward said in order for a local Stan production to get the green light, it had to offer international potential.

Forward (centre): “If it doesn’t work outside Australia, it kind of defeats the purpose” 

Yesterday, Whyte said: “There’s still going to be shows that they’re going to make sense for Australian audiences and maybe don’t travel. And I don’t think that the sole qualifier of a successful show should be ‘Will they watch it in the States? Will they watch it in the UK?’ It comes back to the balanced diet. We need to be producing extraordinary global content because we can, but also we should be producing things that we just like, because we can.”

Today, however, Forward said it’s all about the economics, and it had to stack up locally and internationally in order to be successful.

“I think [Netflix] will continue to invest in local content in much the same way. That seems to be the indication from them. And I think what they’ve done so far has been strong…. Like us, my suspicion is when they commission stuff here they are looking for content that will also travel, because it becomes effectively wanting to fill the catalogue in all of those territories. So absolutely, if it doesn’t work outside Australia, it kind of defeats the purpose,” he said.

“If they don’t speak to our local audience, they don’t speak to the people here, then certainly that’s as critical… [but] economically it’s more important for us to have shows that can also perform overseas. But also, if they don’t work for us here, they probably won’t get commissioned.”


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