The logo of video streaming company Netflix can be seen on the display of a laptop screen. Photo: Alexander Heinl/dpa
The logo of video streaming company Netflix can be seen on the display of a laptop screen. Photo: Alexander Heinl/dpa

What’s behind Netflix’s announcement

TWO months after Netflix opened its first Australian office, the American streaming giant has commissioned Clickbait, a new Australian drama series.

The announcement comes as the streaming platform is increasingly under pressure from a more competitive marketplace and a campaign demanding local content quotas.

Clickbait is light on detail at the moment and Netflix hasn't announced any casting, but it sounds much more promising than the previous two shows Netflix has made in Australia.

What has been announced is that it will be a "character-based thriller which explores the ways in which our most dangerous and uncontrolled impulses are fuelled in the age of social media, and reveals the ever widening fractures we find between our virtual and real life personas".

The eight-part TV show will be produced by renowned Australian writer and director Tony Ayres, who has previously worked on The Slap, Home Song Stories, The Family Law and is currently filming the Cate Blanchett series Stateless.

Tony Ayres, television producer.
Tony Ayres, television producer.

 

Ayres will be joined by writer Christian White and executive producer David Heyman while the lead director will be Brad Anderson, who helmed The Machinist and episodes of The Sinner and The Man in the High Castle.

Clickbait will be the fourth Australian Netflix Original, following Hannah Gadsby's stand-up special Nanette, supernatural soap Tidelands and Chris Lilley comedy Lunatics.

 

LUNATICS: Ex-porn star who loves to collect things. Picture: Netflix
LUNATICS: Ex-porn star who loves to collect things. Picture: Netflix

 

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Gadsby's Nanette became a cultural phenomenon and will be competing for an Emmy next month, but Tidelands and Lunatics were not well received.

 

Tidelands on Netflix. Picture: Netflix
Tidelands on Netflix. Picture: Netflix

 

What's encouraging about Clickbait, which will be filmed in Melbourne's Docklands Studios which recently hosted the production for the fourth season of US series Preacher, is the talent involved.

Ayres is one of the local industry's most respected writers and directors, while the British Heyman has had a hand in some of Hollywood's biggest successes including the Harry Potter franchise, Gravity and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Heyman's Heyday Television is one of the producers alongside Matchbox Pictures and Tony Ayres Productions. NBCU International is the studio on Clickbait.

Clickbait will benefit from the federal government's Location Incentive program and the Victorian government's Production Incentive Attraction Fund.

The timing of Clickbait's commission won't go unnoticed.

In June, Netflix opened an office in Australia after more than four years of operation, hiring its first local senior staff.

Netflix has become the most high-profile target of a local industry campaign around content quotas, specifically whether Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Stan and other streaming platforms should feature a minimum percentage of Australian content on its services, or if a minimum percentage of revenue should be reinvested on local productions.

Among those agitating for the federal government to impose a quota on Netflix are prominent actors Judy Davis and Richard Roxburgh.

 

Hannah Gadsby’s show on Netflix. Picture: Netflix
Hannah Gadsby’s show on Netflix. Picture: Netflix

 

Previously, Netflix has argued that imposing a content quota would lead to cheap, poor quality shows.

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The government undertook a review into screen content, with a report delivered in late 2017, but has refused to release the report's findings. Australian broadcasters are required to produce a minimum amount of local content and children's programming.

Australian-based Stan has plunged into local commissions as a point-of-difference, notably with Wolf Creek, Bloom and Romper Stomper, and currently has The Gloaming and The Commons in production.

With the launch of Disney+ in November, and Apple TV+ before the end of the year, Netflix is under pressure in a landscape that has not seen this many formidable competitors.

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