Production expenditure on Australian scripted content reached an all-time high of $2.29bn in the 2021-2022 period to June, according to Screen Australia’s annual drama report, with a record $1.51bn spent on Australian titles and $777m on foreign productions.
Overall, $2.29bn was spent across 162 productions that started production or post-production in Australia during the period, compared to $1.94bn spent across 163 productions in 2020/21.
The report said the increase was driven by a record spend on Australian theatrical features ($786m up from $495m last year), as well as a record spend on Australian subscription TV and SVOD titles, for which production volume has tripled compared to the previous year.
However, spend on foreign productions shooting in Australia dropped by 44% from its record high in the previous year to $442m, although the report noted this figure was still 19% above the five-year average. Inbound productions during the period include Joe vs Carole, Nautilus and second seasons of La Brea and Young Rock.
Spend on foreign Post, Digital and Visual effects work (PDV) hit a new record of $335m, up 22% from the previous year, with titles including Borderlands and Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.
Australia’s Location Incentive grant program is scheduled to run until 2026/27, and supported six foreign dramas in the 2021/22 period. Increased PDV-only activity was supported by the Australian government’s 30% PDV Offset.
Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said: “Hitting well over the $2 billion mark is an incredible milestone for our sector, and it’s truly a bumper year for Australian scripted content – to have local productions make up 66% of this spend is extraordinary. Distinctly Australian stories continue to captivate audiences here and overseas, with Heartbreak High reaching the top 10 on international Netflix charts, and shows from Bluey to Bump taking the world by storm.”
Spend on Australian features reached a record $786m during the period, an increase of 59% on the previous year, even though the overall number of productions declined, as investment was focused on bigger-budget titles such as George Miller’s Furiosa, Robbie Williams biopic Better Man and Garth Davis sci-fi thriller Foe. Most projects were made for over $5m, while the number of titles made for under $1m continued to decline.
“It’s no secret that the content landscape across film, television and online has changed and viewing habits are continually evolving,” said Mason. “This is most evident in the reduction in films being produced for theatrical release, the shift in drama spend from television to online platforms, and the increasing spend on premium drama.”
Spend on Australian drama produced for subscription TV and SVOD services increased to a record $445m across 29 titles, compared to $119m across just nine titles the previous year. Production increased across most platforms, including Stan, which had seven titles, including Bad Behaviour and Bump series 2 and 3, while Netflix, Amazon Prime and Paramount+ each had four Australian titles enter production.
Spend across television and streaming projects as a whole also increased – nearly doubling to $655m across 62 projects. But reflecting trends globally, spend on free-to-air and BVOD (broadcaster video on demand) has been in steady decline since 2000/01, when 715 hours of general drama was produced for free-to-air TV. This year, just 278 hours were generated, although spend was up slightly by 8% to $208m compared to the previous year.