With the continuous changes of all sectors of the media sphere, come many opportunities as well as challenges. Globalization, the ‘electronic domination’ of core countries over peripheral areas (e.g. influence of America’s Hollywood content which is evident globally and has thus resulted in the spread of such cultural norms and values), convergence, the blurring of distinctions between different genres, industries, technologies etc. and competition are examples of such changes and trends that are and will continue to impact media industries on both a global and local scale. It is the members of society as a whole who are the driving forces behind such rapid movement.
Consumer demands often override industry interest and as a result the decline in Australian media content has risen. Viewers hunger for fast, efficient and high quality web-streaming and downloading of visual entertainment such as television series, film, movies and documentaries. If the media services do not cater for such needs, consumers will easily find other means of obtaining it. To really understand how greatly the people behind computer screens, phone screens and/or tablet screens are really affecting Australian media industries and subsequently Australia’s stand in the global economy, we must explore the psyche of both producers, consumers, and now, in the 21st Century, the ‘produsers’- an example of the convergence between users and producers, where the two once very distinct labels are not necessarily mutually exclusive and can exist in the one person.
Let us examine a current issue or ‘progression’ if you like, which is taking place in the media sphere right now. Netflix. We all know it’s coming and many -if not all- active members of the online content streaming sphere are looking forward to this day and will embrace the American on-demand streaming website. This is a known fact because despite not having launched in Australia yet, its Australian viewer count in growing by the minute and is currently holder of the title of second most popular (paid content) media company in Australia, overriding its current unavailability and active geo-blocking of users. What does this mean for local competitors? Well, Foxtel, Quickflix and Ezyflix should definitely be preparing for another surge of American domination should they wish to remain in the industry. Content-wise, the introduction of Netflix may pose further risks to the Australian film industry and local broadcasting networks. With Netflix, consumers can ignore existing TV schedules knowing that a wide array of tv shows and movies are available at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger. Furthermore, traditional means of obtaining and viewing film content such as DVD purchases and video rentals will drop even further.
Netflix has already altered the Australian market place before even reaching our shores and without the aid of formal marketing or a servicing channel. Their attractiveness to Aussie viewers is owing to their reputation of streaming ‘when we want and how we want,’whilst offering a cheaper rate (compared with current competing services) and decent access to American content as they air, potentially decreasing the high piracy rates in Australia. The current cause of such high rates of piracy include, most notably, the delay of international content to Australian TV and unavailability of many popular new tv shows. In the words of James Croft:
“Australian pollies have it backwards; Aussies don’t pirate because there’s no safeguards against piracy. Aussies pirate because global media and entertainment is a part of Australian culture now. We follow it, we talk about it and contribute back. It has become part of our daily lives” (J. Croft, 2014).
What does this all mean for Australia? Well, contrary to common belief, Australia makes many films a year, but unfortunately a very small fragment make it to the big screen. In 2013, Aussie movies experienced the lowest figure in eight years (since 2005), owning only 3.51% of the local box office, approximately 0.3% below a 3.8% average over ten years. This doesn’t mean Australian consumers should stop watching all foreign material and instead consume only Australian content (as we know that is quite an unrealistic ideal). It simply puts into perspective how much of an impact we really have due to the seemingly insignificant choices we make as to what, how, and from where we obtain such material. Perhaps if Aussies are more open to exploring local content which many consider unappealing compared with global competitors, they may find a number of entertaining and high quality products out there.