A daily newsletter guide to what is happening on your screens - TV, streaming, movies, games, VR, AR
Dan Barrett is an industry commentator & TV critic. He does radio - 4BC & ABC GC and co-hosts the Screen Watching podcast. He's a former Mediaweek deputy editor and content creator for SBS.
The OG Darth Vader dies
ALSO: Aus TV industry reforms. AND: RIP Utopia (US)
RIP David Prowse
David Prowse was the man who filled the Darth Vader suit in the original film series. He died in the UK at the age of 85. A cause of death was not revealed, but he has been of ill-health for several years.
He’ll always be remembered for playing Darth Vader, even if his face and voice were never associated with the actor. The original plan was for the British actors voice to be used, but Vader’s voice was memorably replaced by the great James Earl Jones.
Mr. Prowse only learned that his voice was missing from the film at its premiere. “I’m watching the film and all of a sudden this strange voice comes over,” he told the BBC in the 2013 interview. “I thought, ‘Oh, goodness me, that’s not me.’” But he said that Mr. Jones had been “a great choice” for the part and the pair became friends.
Amazon Prime Video series Utopia, a remake of the UK series, has been cancelled after just one season. Considering the almost zero amount of buzz surrounding the series, this isn’t a surprise.
My own experience with the show: I was interested by the first few episodes, but had trouble buying into the world of the show and my interest dropped away by the fourth episode (which I may or may not have watched). Completion rates are important and I wonder if that contributed to Utopia’s downfall.
The Star Wars jeans guy is no longer canon, it seems. He’s now been digitally removed from The Mandalorian.
Similar to Game of Thrones coffee cups, the jeans guy was an error in production that made it through to the finished production. It’s kind of amazing that such mistakes make their way through to ‘broadcast’ on modern productions that demand so much CGI over almost every frame. It’s pretty rare to see a boom mic in shot anymore - but dudes rocking their Levi’s 501s make it through.
Netflix to reveal its true UK revenue
Like many of you, one of my big frustrations in this world of global tech giants is that they aren’t really paying their fair share of tax. I pay my fair share of tax - I expect corporations to do the same thing.
In 2018, Netflix Services UK declared revenue of just €48M. This is despite Netflix having an estimated 10M British subscribers at the time (it has since added about 3 million more). According to Tax Watch, it is estimated that Netflix’s true 2018 revenue was likely to be around £860M.
Why is the revenue so low? We live in a global market and the books show that Netflix’s British company provides services to Netherlands-based Netflix International which collects the revenue from UK subscribers.
But Netflix now say that they plan to reveal the true UK revenue. I expect that we’ll see similar moves in Australia.
“As Netflix continues to grow in the UK and in other international markets we want our corporate structure to reflect this footprint,” a Netflix spokesman told The Guardian. “So from next year, revenue generated in the UK will be recognised in the UK, and we will pay corporate income tax accordingly.”
Will Netflix be paying more tax going forward? Not necessarily. With a planned billion-dollar spend on UK content this year, it is likely that Netflix will not have a taxable profit…
Nothing about any of this seems like a win for Australian viewers, but there are plans to reform the Australian screen industry to better face competition with an influx of international content providers.
Proposed reforms include:
Scrapping broadcast spectrum fees and moving to a new licensing model which can save broadcasters up to $12 million per year.
Broadcasters opting-in to the new licensing model will then be required to use less spectrum, with that spectrum returned to the government (which will then on-sell this valuable spectrum to telecommunications companies).
Streaming services must invest a (yet-to-be-determined) percentage of their Australian revenue on local content - either as commissions, co-productions, or acquisitions.
The Green Paper for this proposal is available HERE.
Regional media companies have criticised the proposals - they would like the laws requiring a diverse number of media voices in regional areas to be scrapped, allowing mergers. Read: AFR
My view - Reforms need to balance two things:
Is a framework being established to enable media companies to operate in the marketplace fairly (with an emphasis given to maintaining local voices in an increasingly international content space)?
Will that framework provide content that is valuable to Australian content consumers?
What are we seeing here:
Forcing international streamers into investing in the local market doesn’t necessarily benefit Australians - Netflix’s content needs and Australia’s content needs aren’t necessarily one and the same. Netflix (as with all international streamers… I’m just using Netflix as the most obvious example) needs content that will play internationally. Watch almost any of the shows commissioned - put on the English language dub and try to work out what country the show was produced in. They’re almost entirely devoid of cultural specificity. For Australia to benefit, the content can’t just be propping up the local screen industry (where jobs are majority casual and seasonal) - it also needs to tell Australian stories with an Australian audience as the core intended audience.
Plans to further lock in the ABC and SBS to committing to a certain volume of Australian content is a great idea - it ensures that a local commissioning team is commissioning local stories for local audiences. BUT… are they being funded adequately to accomplish this? We all know the answer.
Instead of forcing international companies to make Australian content, I’d rather see them forced to pay money into an Australian production fund which the ABC & SBS can draw upon for local commissions - discounts and rebates can then be issued if the international streamers want to co-produce/finance with editorial kept local.
The spectrum sale/licensing/buy back actually sounds positive, but only as long as the licenses demand a certain level of investment by networks in children’s content - this valued part of the sector will be wiped out if networks using public spectrum aren’t obligated to keep investing in the space.
I’m curious to hear your thoughts - comments are open on this post below.
Marvel can again use their Daredevil
It has been two years since Netflix cancelled the Marvel superhero shows (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, Iron Fist, and The Defenders). This means that Netflix’s contractual two year hold on the rights to the characters has expired, enabling Marvel to again use the characters on screen.
It’s unlikely that you’ll see those versions of the characters again, but it’d be pretty surprising if Marvel didn’t have plans for some of these characters going forward - Daredevil in particular.