Words. Damian Kassabgi
Screen time was once scarce, with a limited number of channels on your television set and a finite number of movies at the cinema. Traditionally, production companies pitched work and a senior executive tried to divine whether it would get the ratings needed to earn back the initial investment.
While this system largely persists as the main source of content production in Australia, the internet is clearly liberalising old markets. There is no executive greenlight process on YouTube; creators post their work in an open competitive screen space and consumers decide what’s popular and what’s not. And new content creators, who didn’t have an obvious place in this traditional system, are getting a look in.
Take the Sydney Opera House. Each year, the House welcomes an international audience to its ‘Live at the House’ series via YouTube. The Opera House doesn’t need to cut TV deals or negotiate exclusive rights—it simply casts open the virtual doors of one of Australia’s greatest icons, and lets the whole world experience the best of our arts, culture, and entertainment.
This is just one of many examples of Australian content productions being shared around the globe. From Rob Nixon and his cooking show, to Derek Muller’s science education, to Lauren Curtis’ beauty advice, Australians are becoming global YouTube stars and household names. In fact, the majority of home-grown Aussie content is exported - around 9 out of 10 views of Australian YouTube content come from overseas. YouTube provides opportunities for local content creators to access a worldwide audience and gain loyal fans amongst the next generation of consumers who have grown up with the web and don’t know any different.
Australian creators of all stripes are jumping on board. Gotye’s cleverly constructed song became one of the biggest breakup anthems of all time, thanks to its YouTube success. Somebody that I used to know is one of the most widely viewed clips on the site with more than 430 million views—each view streaming advertising revenue back to the creator.
When it comes to narrated comedy, our YouTube content has its own cultural flavour. Natalie Tran, Mychonny and Superwog poke fun at their “Asianese” and Lebanese backgrounds, and these online channels are regularly getting over a million views per episode.
Derek Muller, aka Veritasium, is one of Australia’s more recent success stories after reaching well over 800,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, making him one of the biggest educational content channels in the world. In each of his clips, Derek makes complex scientific concepts fun and accessible, melding his love for science and creativity.
This explosion of Australian content on the world stage has happened over a relatively short period of time. In just eight years, YouTube has grown into the world’s biggest destination for online video and features the most diverse set of faces and voices assembled in human history; more than 100 hours of video content is uploaded to the site every minute, and there are tens of thousands of people in the YouTube Partner program in Australia. Most significantly, in just eight years, we’ve seen YouTube go from being a hobby, to a job, to a career for Australian creators, who are increasingly earning a living from their YouTube revenue.
What makes this global exchange of content so fluid for Australian creators? English language content is easily exportable across markets. Most of our Australian content is heavily consumed in other English-speaking markets such as the US and UK, and vice versa. This provides immense opportunity for potential creators to reach out to a global audience, a market for Australian creators many times larger than the domestic one.
Screen Australia / YouTube Partnership
Still, there’s much to do in encouraging local talent to share their art online, in whatever form that may be.
For years now, Screen Australia and successive federal and state governments have supported productions for the TV and movie industry through grants, offsets and seed funding—and they have done a great job. Whether in Ireland, the UK, the US or South East Asia, people from around the world have grown up with Australian content in their media mix—from Skippy to Crocodile Dundee to Priscilla Queen of the Desert to Neighbours.
With the the Internet becoming mainstream, we are now seeing the next stage in Australian content delivery to the globe. It’s for this reason Google and YouTube are teaming up with Screen Australia to encourage more talent to take up the online screen.
We’ve developed a unique project to help foster the next generation of Australian storytellers. Screen Australia and Google will combine funding, resources, education and support for the production of content for distribution online via YouTube and other online platforms. The program is aimed at supporting innovative creators who produce narrated content for online consumption. With Screen Australia we’re going to give successful applicants seed funding, and if necessary, support in partnering up and working with with a local production agency.
Through this initiative, we hope to contribute to the expansion of made-for-web programming in Australia, as locals share their stories, here and with the rest of the world. In this new world of an open screen, we hope to kick-off programs that might be the start of our own online Priscilla or Crocodile Dundee.