OPINION: The rise of Australian-made TV

Liz Ross
By Liz Ross | 17 September 2012
Freeview general manager Liz Ross.

If you had to pick the main trends in television this year, one of the stand-outs must surely be the fact that audiences are embracing Australian-made content like never before.

Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, The Voice, The Block, MasterChef, My Kitchen Rules, Offspring, Packed to the Rafters, Underbelly, Puberty Blues and Go Back to Where You Came From have all been delivering strong audiences in both live and time-shifted viewing. And it’s not over yet - there’s a raft of new and returning series growing this list of top performers – Rake, Jack Irish and House Husbands to name just a few.

According to OzTAM and RegionalTAM, out of the top 40 ranking shows between weeks one and 28 this year, 38 were Australian.

Since the beginning of the year, Australian shows have swept the audience rankings and had the whole country talking. Even shows that have yet to hit the screen have been generating considerable media buzz, which in previous years might have been reserved for the imminent arrival of the latest American hit show.

The great thing about this year’s overwhelming dominance by locally-produced programming is that they are spread across so many genres.

We’re not just talking about reality TV or light entertainment, two genres where Australian content has been strong for years, but in drama, sport and documentaries.

In sport, summer highlights were cricket and the Australian Open tennis, while this winter we’ve had a record-breaking State of Origin series, and are now heading into the finals season for both the main football codes. Needless to say, the biggest sporting event of the year was not in Australia, but it can easily be argued that coverage on free-to-view TV of the London 2012 Games was “virtually” Australian.

Even in the much younger demographics, we’ve seen shows like Bindi’s Bootcamp deliver terrific audiences in the kids’ space.

Of course, 2012 has become the year of social media for TV – it has exploded. We’ve already reached the point where any successful TV programme is accompanied by Twitter hashtags as well as the real-time conversations audiences are holding via the new apps such as Fango and Jump-In.

Indeed, social media is one of the main reasons that even Australian shows that haven’t made the top spot in the ratings have nevertheless had the Twittersphere (and as a result the mainstream mass media) running positively red hot.

Of course, social TV has also taken off as a global phenomenon – but in Australia we can still boast a crucial difference compared with the subscription dominated US TV market. The huge variety of superb Australian content that audiences are watching, tweeting and talking about is free.

Once upon a time, one of the complaints heard most often from Australian TV viewers was to do with a dearth (real or perceived – it doesn’t matter) of locally-made, quality shows on free-to-view TV.

Think back. Who has never heard – or perhaps started – one of those conversations bemoaning that “everything on Australian TV is American” or “there’s so much British TV shown over here”?

All that’s changed this year. Right from the start of 2012, not once has anyone even hinted that overseas content is dominating free-to-view TV.

And for good reason.

Why? Because if ever there was a year in TV that will go down as the year of Australian content, it will surely be 2012.

Liz Ross
General Manager
Freeview

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