Last month we looked at some predictions for the future of animated film, both in Australia and worldwide. This month we’re delving into the two other major outlets for animated media: our old pal television, and our new, very rich and therefore very attractive pal, corporate animation. Let’s get cracking:
1. Streaming services will offer alternative pathways in the Australian television landscape
Netflix. It’s due for an official Australian release at the end of March. Many Australians are already taking advantage of Netflix US through accounts which bypass geotracking limitations. Then there’s also Stan, Quickflix and Presto, all offering multiple streaming alternatives to the traditional free-to-air and satellite scheduled programming, which rely largely on a system of restrictive timeslots. There’s only so many programmes that can fit in a 24-hour, 7-day week.
This could change not only the range and amount of animation available for viewers, but also the platforms available for Australian animation producers. Currently, there aren’t a whole lot of avenues to broadcast an Australian-made animation in Australia. Let’s quickly look at the networks currently available for broadcasting locally-made animation.
First, there’s the abysmal state of Australian animation on the big three commercial networks. More often than not a new animated acquisition for Networks Ten, Seven or Nine will be slotted into a dead viewing zone, like 11.30am on a Saturday when potential viewers are at the shops or playing sport or still several hours from waking up after a big Friday night (because I’m certain there are plenty of hungover adults who watch kids cartoons). It’s only a matter of weeks or months before the show is shipped off to one of the ABC channels, the graveyard of failed Australian kids animations.
And even considering ABC3’s original animated commissions, the recent announcement of ABC budget cuts over the next five years doesn’t bode well for new animated content being picked up any time soon.
Screening on a platform like Netflix or even Amazon (both of whom have original content development or pitching programmes in place) allows consumers to watch whenever they want, giving a seemingly fairer chance for a show to be proven by its quality rather than its timeslot. It remains to be seen whether there will be avenues for Australian producers to pitch either completed or commissioned content for Australian screens, but the potential is certainly there for the near future.
2. …But those streaming services will probably suck in Australia.
The flipside here is that the subscription services offered to Australia will have to offer a decent amount of quality content to have a chance at overtaking existing platforms.
The dream scenario for Australian consumers would of course be to have access to the same quality and amount of programs that are currently available to US Netflix customers, for the same or similar price.
But given the track record of overseas companies for utterly screwing over Australians with price and content inconsistencies for reasons unknown to anyone, anywhere (cough Adobe cough), it seems unlikely that dream will see reality. Informed sources are already indicating that licensing agreements will prevent some blockbuster series like Orange Is The New Black from being available on Netflix Australia, at least in the initial year.
And here’s why: Remember how I mentioned that alongside Netflix, we also have the options of Stan, Quickflix and Presto, as well as Foxtel and free-to-air television? Licensing agreements for high-demand shows, most of which are available on Netflix in the US, are spread across all of these vendors, fragmenting the market and making it difficult for consumers to have enough of their desired shows on just one service. This means paying for multiple services to get the same content our American Netflix-subscribing friends are talking about.
So, while a big initial buzz is predicted for the official introduction of Netflix in Australia, it will likely be a tentative buzz, from a world-weary bee, who lives in a disconnected island hive where consumers are oft exploited by international media companies and the internet is really, really slow.
3. Australia will see a growth of small, boutique corporate animation studios
With the closure of Disney Australia in 2006 came the subsequent loss of a large amount of the contract work sent out to the larger animation studios in Australia. Hence, the last ten years have seen a decline in the need for larger animation studios in the country, sending many animators packing to form smaller studios focussing on specialised short form media like advertising, web videos and corporate animation.
Alongside workers already in the industry are an ever-flowing number of animation graduates. This means more workers looking for jobs in an already tight climate. And what do you do when you can’t find work at any companies in the field you studied in?
You quietly cry into your pillow.
But after that, you share your woes on social media. You find out several of your talented friends and classmates are also having trouble navigating the sparse Australian job market. You plot, scheme, collaborate, bitch about old uni lecturers, plot some more, and then start your own company together.
To work up enough money to focus on the creative projects you all actually want to do, you start by focussing on corporate animation—jobs where you’ll actually get paid for the work you’re doing. A decade or so down the track, the marketplace is filled with these boutique animation startups born out of a lack of opportunity elsewhere. The good news about all this is…
4. There will be a growing demand for corporate animation and short-form visual media
With increasing studies being done on our internet habits and spending patterns, people are starting to see how much more effective visual media is at gaining and keeping a potential customer’s attention than a block of text.
And while I realise that I am indeed making this very point within a block of text, Mr or Ms Smartypants, I’ll have you know I have even more text to back this up. Here’s a blog article outlining 19 statistics (you know, actual numbers and stuff, as opposed to a blog where every argument is loosely made up by the author… as if you’d ever read anything like that) on how visual content functions as a more effective marketing tool than plain text.
This indicates an increasing need for niche corporate animation companies who can get a company’s message across in a quick, visual medium which can be easily digested and shared online.
Already there are a number of specialist studios dotted around Australia: like SketchVideos, one of many ‘whiteboard animation’ companies popping up around the internet, or Explanimate, a Brisbane animation company who specialise in creating animated ‘explainer’ videos.
These kinds of online-based markets tend to fluctuate in popularity every few years, but my prediction for the next 20 years is to see an overall upward trend for animated media in the corporate and online environment.
Only time will tell how laughably off-track these predictions for the future of animation will be. 20 years is a damn long time in the technology and media world, but a relatively short time in the realm of the arts and, frankly, the entire rest of the universe. It’s difficult to tell what anyone will watch, buy, sell, listen to, be afraid of, or care about at any point in history, so who knows? For now I’m perfectly happy to just watch some cartoons on whatever kind of screen is showing them, killing time until the internet eventually becomes a sentient being who enslaves us all.
Written by Maree Railton.