Buy local: Streaming services bank on Aussie content

Putting the 'Straya into SVOD

No Activity

Stan's first attempt at original programming is Seinfeld meets The Wire. A cop show where nothing happens – as the name suggests, there is No Activity. The show is half adlib, half cop comedy and – judging from the first two episodes at least – 100 per cent hilarious (and is available on the platform now).

But unlike the show, Australia's streaming video scene has plenty of activity. Since the arrival of Netflix earlier this year, the SVOD market has thrived in Australia, as the local contenders ramp up their offering to compete with the global giant.

In the past few months, Stan and Presto have offered significant updates to their platforms, launching apps on different devices and expanding their lineup with a wide range of international content.

But the next battlefield is the arrival of original programming, specifically created for their platforms. With both No Activity and Presto's 'Let's Talk About' set for release later this month, the battle for SVOD supremacy is ramping up significantly.

While global rival Netflix has long shouted about the importance of its original programming, the arrival of these shows clearly illustrates that targeting the smaller, Australian SVOD market doesn't mean you can survive by simply licensing other people's programming.

"Our vision," Stan CEO Mike Sneesby tells us after a screening of the first two episodes of No Activity, "is to be Australia's most-loved streaming brand. And you don't do that by following everybody else and copying each other – you do it by going out and knowing what direction you want to take and then chasing that direction."

A key part of that direction for Stan is developing original Australian programming for its SVOD platform.

In addition to No Activity, Stan has also commissioned a drama series based on the iconic Australian film Wolf Creek, which began production this week. Stan is also working with Screen Queensland to produce its first feature film, although details on that project are still elusive.

"To be able to go and make good shows consistently, they're great as a key part of building a brand that's got real character and real texture in the Australian market," Sneesby expands.

For Presto CEO Shaun James, original programming is a big part of having an Australian focus – a core pillar of the Presto experience. Being a joint venture between Foxtel and Channel 7, Presto is supplementing original content with locally produced shows from its parent companies.

"We certainly see [original programming] as important, so as well as Presto commissioning programming like the two we've spoken about with Let's Talk About and the Home and Away telemovie, we believe our shareholding between Foxtel and Seven is one of the reasons that the parties came together - both are very strong with respect already to domestic productions," James explains.

Seriously funny

Conspiracy theorists might get excited by the fact that the initial originals offered by both Stan and Presto are comedies, while the follow up pieces are both slated to be dramas.

But the truth is that in both cases, it was the idea, and the fact that the shows were already well-fleshed out, that convinced each service that comedy was the best way to start. In amongst a wide series of pitches from show creators, the comedy option stood out.

"Jungle Boys had such a well developed creative idea already [with No Activity], and having that whole project bundled together and people who are already attached to it with a real passion to do it has made a real difference in terms of being able to move quickly, but also in creating a great result," Sneesby tells us.

Like Stan, Presto has been inundated with pitches for a variety of shows, but the ones that have been commissioned have all had one thing in common: A great idea. And that's not an aspect of television that varies much from traditional broadcasters. In explaining why the "up the duff" comedy Let's Talk About was commissioned, James explains what kind of a show idea gets made.