This article is written by a leading industry expert and is focused on providing an up-to-date snapshot of the best opportunities in the market from a digital media and television perspective.
The TV industry in Australia is experiencing rapid structural change with the launch in March 2015 of three separate subscription video on demand (SVOD) services along with the launch in November of the Australian version of the YouTube Kids App.
Netflix now has more that 1.5 million Australian subscribers, Stan has over 500,000 subscribers and Presto is not far behind with around 400,000 subscribers.
Foxtel has a little under 2 million subscribers in Australia for its comparatively expensive PAY TV service.
iTunes, Google Play, Telstra Bigpond, Sony PlayStation, Xbox, Fetch and Microsoft are all offering downloaded or streamed TV content through their digital delivery platforms.
YouTube is the most viewed site on the internet and the free YouTube Kids App will become one of the most viewed children’s TV services in the world.
All of the free to air broadcasters have now sophisticated catch up services with the ABC’s iView leading the way – the streaming of children’s TV shows from ABC iView is in the tens of millions of streams per month.
Both ABC and Channel Nine will commence simultaneous streaming of all their TV channels from their online sites iView and 9Now in early 2016.
Viewing or streaming TV shows from TVs, PCs, smart phones and tablets has never been easier or faster and yet even with all these new methods to reach an Australian audience it is still broadcast on free to air TV channels that is still the major driver of merchandising specifically related to TV programs.
In pre-school, ABC KIDS is still the ratings king however the Disney block on Channel Seven and Kids WB, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon shows on Go! are delivering great off-screen success to these US children’s networks.
Notwithstanding the fantastic success of Peppa Pig, the hottest pre-school show right now is Paw Patrol which is broadcast on Go! daily at 6am and 10:30am. Toys are from Funtastic/Spinmaster, videos from Universal Sony and the licensing is managed by Haven.
Also on Go! a new pre-school TV series for girls has recently launched called Little Charmers featuring three girl witches in training. There is an extensive toy line from Funtastic/Spinmaster launching in 2016, books from Scholastic, videos from Roadshow and a large merchandising program being launched in the US and managed by the Fusion Agency in Australia.
Over at the ABC, the hottest new show on ABC KIDS is from the BBC called Hey Duggee. Duggee is a big dog and he’s the leader of an after school club, called the Squirrels. There is a plush toy line through Jasnor, books from Penguin, videos from Roadshow and BBC Worldwide Australia managing the licensing program.
The Wiggles are enjoying a big resurgence in popularity with Emma the Yellow Wiggle being a real superstar. She is now starring in her very own TV show self titled Emma! with the 26 x 4 minute episodes regularly broadcast on ABC KIDS.
The Teletubbies has been redeveloped for a new generation with the new TV series being launched on ABC KIDS in March 2016. The new TV series looks exactly like the original with the exception that the new Teletubbies have definitely lost some weight off their tummies and are less tubby than the original version.
Another preschool TV show coming from the same UK producer as Teletubbies and In the Night Garden is Twirlywoos. Launching on ABC KIDS in 2016, the Twirlywoos characters are bird-like animals that are flightless, round and soft which will be released as soft toys once the TV series starts broadcasting.
ABC KIDS will launch SplashDance in January 2016 which is an Australian live action pop music dance show featuring four twenty year old singing and dancing presenters. Each four minute episode features two of the presenters singing and dancing a song that preschoolers will want to dance about to in front of the TV.
For the older kids, Channel 7 and ABC3 will be broadcasting an animated TV series called The Deep. The Deep features the Nekton family who journey in a submarine to the bottom depths of the ocean and encounter all sorts of mysterious and dangerous creatures.
Over on Go! there is a massive expectation that Yo-kai Watch could be the next Pokémon. Already a smash hit in Japan, this anime show started broadcasting on Go! in December and has licensees and retailers clamouring to get a piece of the action. The global toy partner is Hasbro and Fusion Agency is representing the licensing.
Another show on Go! launching in 2016 is Wild Kratts featuring the US version of the Leyland brothers – the Kratts brothers. This animated show which is in its fifth season on PBS in the US has a successful merchandising program in the US which is being spearheaded by Hunter Products in Australia.
Thunderbirds Series 1 will be launching on ABC3 in February 2016 after its successful run on Go! in 2015, and Series 2 of Thunderbirds will premiere on Go! in September 2016.
Over on Eleven, Pokémon will be celebrating its 20th anniversary and continues to be an incredible successful property.
The children’s pay TV channels will come under increasing ratings pressure from the much cheaper SVOD services and will struggle to keep market share, so their partnerships with the free to air broadcasters will continue to increasingly important to reach mass audiences.
Everyone is writing off the future of free to air to air TV except it is still the best place to be if you want to have a successful merchandising program coming from a TV series.