What Australians think Australian TV does best

29 March, 2018

Image: The Family Law, SBS

One of the ongoing trends in the TV industry is the globalization of content. Thanks to the Internet and the rise of both local and global streaming platforms, it is easier than ever for viewers to consume content from all over the world. For local content producers in a market such as Australia – this is both a threat, and an opportunity.

While it is a challenge for local TV to compete head-on with the huge overseas budgets and internationally recognized stars of the giant American media and entertainment corporations, a production that is tailored to the local audience can resonate in ways that TV made elsewhere never can.

Additionally, there have been an increasing number of examples where a title that was made specifically to appeal in just one market nonetheless goes on to become a success in others (we call this concept “travelability”; you can read more on this concept here).

In this study, Parrot Analytics has commissioned a survey to uncover just what it is that Australians really value about their local content. In doing so, we have identified many of the success factors that contribute to content emerging as a local hit. The survey involved participation from 500 Australians; the following question was asked:

QUESTION: What qualities of Australian-made TV shows can’t be found in shows produced overseas (e.g. in the USA)?

As this was an open-ended question with no fixed answers to choose between, survey participants could list as many qualities as they wanted. Some responses went into considerable detail about multiple aspects of Australian content, while others preferred to focus on the quality they considered most important.

In analyzing the responses, a set of overarching categories were identified; the content of each individual answer was then assigned to the category or categories where there was the best fit.


What Australians like best about “Aussie TV” is that they can relate to it

The results of our study revealed a very clear outcome: The vast majority of the responses, to a greater or lesser extent, included the idea that Australian-made TV was “relatable” to Australians.

The following graph clearly illustrates just how important this concept is to Australians.

Further, we have found that successful locally-made content includes people that talk like Australians, have the same sense of humor, live in places that look the same as those of the audience consuming the content, and also share the same cultural assumptions. Being able to relate well to the content is the single biggest advantage Australians believe that Australian TV has over content from other places.

This overall result can be broken down further, which reveals in detail, what it is exactly that Australians like about their locally produced content.

The largest proportion of the detailed response categories related to “Humor”: 34% of answers include “Humor” as one of the qualities that separated Australian content from TV shows produced in other countries. “Aussie humour” is clearly a source of great pride and something that Australians believe cannot readily be found in content from elsewhere. This notion was expressed in many different ways by survey respondents, with some of the more common descriptions being “self-deprecating”, “dry wit”, “irreverent” and “down to earth”.

Nearly as important as “humor” is “Familiarity”, which 32% of answers included. Australians enjoy seeing recognizable locations, storylines that reflect “Australian stuff” and a reflection of the culture and social mores of Australia, rather than somewhere else. “Authenticity” was a common word in answers in this category, while some of the more detailed answers also delved into ideas like “cultural identity” and the “Australian perspective”.

17% of answers specifically named a particular aspect of Australian culture, the inclusion of which respondents felt differentiated Australian-made content from imported TV. Examples in this category were very wide-ranging, such as a character in an emergency calling 000 rather than 911, more than a few mentions of “bogans” (defined as “an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status”) and the rather excellent observation that Australian TV has “swearing instead of guns”.

The next most common quality named was the Australian accent itself. Although still related to the larger point of familiarity and recognizability, 15% of Australians thought that the presence of the “Aussie accent” in Australian content, as well as slang, was important enough to them to specifically and separately cite this.

The main category of responses that didn’t relate back to relatability concerned the more technical aspects of Australian TV production. This was singled out for praise by 12% of respondents, with storylines/plots, production values and quality being the top aspects. A few of the responses in this category favorably contrasted Australian TV with the laugh-tracks and commercial biases of overseas productions.

8% of responses included an aspect that related to the Australian natural world. This was further split into two distinct subcategories: Australians that enjoyed the inclusion of Australia’s landscapes and scenery and those that talked about Australian wildlife. Of the wildlife answers, kangaroos were by far the most common animal listed, followed by crocodiles and parrots.

The final category is for the 4% of answers that relate to Australian actors and actresses, with almost all praising the acting skills displayed in Australian TV.


Where Australian content could improve

Despite the question asking for what Australians liked about their TV content, a handful of participants also used the survey as an opportunity to share some things that they didn’t like about Australian TV.

A common thread in these answers was the lower budget of Australian shows, with comments like “they feel so cheap”. This is a problem for any country: When high budget American content is so widespread it can be easily contrasted unfavorably to local content that can’t call on hundreds of millions of dollars. Luckily, local content producers can mitigate this by focusing on the qualities highlighted previously, which the expensive imports cannot (as yet) provide.

Finally, a few respondents lamented that Australian TV was underrepresented in certain genres and overrepresented in others and multiple people held the opinion that there were too many local reality shows. Meanwhile there’s a possible opportunity that we have uncovered for the Australian TV industry: There is at least one Aussie out there that really wants more local sci-fi…just make sure the spaceship crew includes a kangaroo!

For more information, check out the most up-to-date Australia television industry overview.

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