Last Thursday saw the release of the highly anticipated television continuation of Australian horror movie Wolf Creek on on-demand subscription service Stan.
Wolf Creek is Stan’s second original series, following 2015’s improvisation comedy No Activity, which the Sydney Morning Herald praised as the “Seinfeld of cop shows” for essentially being a show about nothing and everything at the same time. However, Wolf Creek is a far more polished production than anything else emerging out of an Australian subscription video platform.
Stan, which is co-owned by Fairfax Media and Channel Nine’s parent company, produced the six-part series alongside the creator and director of the Wolf Creek films, Greg McLean. The ideas behind the television series came about during the eight year gap between the first Wolf Creek film and its 2013 sequel.
The Wolf Creek series focuses on an American family on holiday in the Northern Territory, who fall victim to the infamous backpacker serial killer from the films, Mick Taylor (played by John Jarratt, who reprises his role).
Fellow streaming service Presto (owned by Foxtel and Channel Seven) has only recently begun creating its own content, having aired an exclusive Home and Away special event in late 2015, with plans to air two more this year. Their main two competitors in the Australian market, Netflix and Quickflix, don’t even bother creating Australian television, but international juggernaut Netflix is spending nearly $9 billion on original content worldwide in 2016 and Quickflix has just been placed into voluntary administration, so don’t expect anything original out of there any time soon.
Streaming is obviously here to stay, with live and scheduled television only useful for news, sport and reality television, so we need to get used to this. Free to air networks such as Ten are struggling to stay profitable and even Foxtel is feeling the pinch as subscribers abandon it for Netflix. Might these businesses stop creating the Australian dramas and comedies they are known for?
Of all the streaming services, only Stan fast-tracks overseas shows onto Australian screens and is estimated to have reached 500,000 subscribers this month. Presto has a wider range of HBO shows (with the notable exception being Game of Thrones) and Disney moves, with subscriptions at about 150,000. Netflix is arguably producing some of the best original content in the world at the moment – such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards – and Australians have recognised this, with 2.5 million of us tuning into Netflix in the six months to June 2015.
It’s great that there are several cheap alternatives to Foxtel’s expensive television packages, (subscriptions to Stan and Presto are only about $10 a month) but what do these subscription video services do for television in Australia? The average 18-34 year old watches about 9.9 hours of on-demand subscription television each week, according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, so there’s not a whole lot of time left for regular free-to-air or pay TV broadcasting, which is where the majority of Australian television can be found.
Netflix obviously offers the best in terms of quality and quantity, but as Stan and Presto seek greater market share they will definitely continue investing in Australian content as their point of difference from Netflix. There’s also responsibility on the viewers’ part – if Australians want actual Australian television, we need to vote with our money and show more faith in Australian subscription services.