Working paper

This paper examines changes in the production and commissioning of Australian television drama from 1999–2019, a period marked by notable changes in the business of television in Australia and globally. More production companies now make drama in Australia; however, the fact that more companies share less than half the annual hours once produced raises concerns about sustainability. Several major Australian production companies have been acquired by foreign conglomerates and challenge the viability of domestic companies that lack access to international corporate capital and distribution.

The decrease in adult drama hours commissioned by commercial broadcasters has reshaped Australian television drama more than any other change. The national broadcasters have increased their role in commissioning, particularly in children’s drama.

Titles have not decreased nearly as significantly as the number of episodes per series. Commercial broadcasters’ drama decreased from an average of 21 episodes per title in 1999 to seven in 2019, a 60 per cent decrease that, along with the increasing peripheralization of 'soaps', has diminished available training grounds and career paths in the Australian scripted production industry.

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