Australia to Impose Local Content Quotas on Streaming Platforms

The government promises “necessary action” to prevent Australian storytelling from being “drowned out” by overseas programming, especially from Hollywood.

Australia is preparing to impose local content quotas on streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, the country’s government said Monday.

The new scheme is part of a long-in-the-making national cultural policy called “Revive,” and the government promised that quotas would go into effect no later than July 1, 2024. The framework unveiled Monday was conspicuously light on detail, however, with the precise share of local Australian content that global streaming services will be required to produce and distribute left to further negotiation. 

The Australian government said Monday it would take “necessary action” to prevent Australian storytelling from being “drowned out” by overseas programming, especially from Hollywood and the U.S. 

“The government has committed to take the necessary action so that Australians continue to be able to see and hear quality homegrown content, regardless of which platform they are using. It is important that streaming services invest in key genres, including children’s content, scripted drama and documentaries,” the policy framework reads.

The major U.S. streamers, including Netflix and Disney+, are already producing some Australian originals as part of their local content strategies, albeit in limited quantities. Netflix scored a breakout hit late last year with its revival of the cult Australian high school series, Heartbreak High. And Disney+ has launched some local docu-series, including female sports show Fearless: The Inside Story of the AFLW and Shipwreck Hunters Australia.

The “Revive” policy posits that Australians are now watching more content on streaming platforms than via traditional broadcasters, and that the local subscription video industry grew 50 percent in 2021 to $1.7 billion ($2.4 billion Australian dollars) in total revenue. 

The Australian screen industry has been lobbying its government for years to apply content quotas to the large global streamers. Screen Producers Australia has been pushing for a model under which platform must spend 20 percent of their local revenue on Australian productions. But given the diversity of monetization models and the broad array of local and international partnerships streaming operators employ in Australia, hammering out the policy details remains fraught with complexity. Clearly defining what qualifies as “Australian” content also remains to be decided. 

The Australian government says it will continue to hold consultations with the streaming companies and local industry groups up until legislation is introduced in the third quarter of 2023. Industry observers expect the policy to include: a required share of revenue that must be spent on Australian content; requirements for privileged genres, such as documentaries and kids content; and minimum carriage quotas for “discoverable” Australian content on all platforms, among other trade terms. 

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