What feels like an eternity ago, entertainment was consumed very differently in 2019. The pre-pandemic landscape of Australian entertainment was heavily reliant on a combination of the free-to-air television — with millions tuning into sport, Married at First Sight, The Block and Lego Masters — and Foxtel, along with trips to the physical movie theatre. But along with physical bluray and purchased digital downloads, there was a growing popularity of home streaming, with Netflix and Stan well established since 2015 and Amazon Prime Video and Kayo Sports growing since mid-to-late 2018.
Of course there are no surprises when the consumption of home entertainment reached an all-time high during the peak of the pandemic in 2020. Australia’s population, especially those in Victoria, was looking for a welcome distraction in their homes. With fortuitous timing to take advantage of captive audiences at home, Disney Plus and Apple TV+ were released late 2019 and Binge in early 2020.
We are now spoilt for choice between free-to-air offerings (with their related streaming services, which includes the very popular ABC iView and SBS On Demand); and paid subscriptions such as Netflix, Stan, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Binge, Kayo Sports, Optus Sports, Foxtel Now, Apple TV Plus and Stan.
The Shifting Tide Of Consumption: Streaming and Video-on-Demand
As the experience of heading to physical cinema and feasting on buttery popcorn and choc-tops came to a halt with COVID-19 outbreaks, theatre release schedules were thrown into chaos. Movies were pushed back multiple times before inevitably being placed on streaming services. New release titles were suddenly expedited to digital platforms. People settled into their couch and dived into digital content from the comfort of their own home.
With the option of owning and renting movies immediately following their premiere, entertainment became easier or more affordable. It is clear that consumers turned to digital entertainment to provide distraction during lockdown. With new features implemented to streaming services as COVID-19 continued, streaming services even allowed family and friends to stay connected with watch-along parties even while in different households.
Jim Batchelor, Chairman, Australian Home Entertainment Distributors Association (AHEDA) said: “Australian consumers clearly embraced the ease and choice that digital platforms offered during the lockdown and I’m certain that this trend will continue in the future.”
With a wide breadth of titles and easy access to multiple platforms, it is little wonder that in April 2020 digital purchases increased +55% and in May 2020 +29%. Digital rental followed a similar trend; in April 2020 it was +49% and May 2020 saw +43%. Furthermore, Amazon Prime Video launched its service to buy and rent movies and TV in May, expanding the competitive landscape beyond Apple TV, Google Play, Foxtel Store, YouTube, Telstra Box Office and Fetch, in addition to gaming platforms such as PlayStation and Xbox.
The Teaser Trailer
So, what really took off in 2020?
Well, for starters, the star-studded action-comedy Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony) was the top-performing and most purchased film of 2020, followed by action-adventure comedy film based on the Sonic video game Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount) and animated hit Frozen 2 (Disney). Considering the slow burn and massive success of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the sequel tearing up the digital Video-on-Demand platforms is little surprise, nor is Disney’s Frozen 2.
In terms of the most-watched film in the digital rental category, Oscar-nominated film Joker (2019) (Roadshow) took first place, followed by Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount) and The Gentleman (2019) (Roadshow).
Batchelor said: “Jumanji has proven to be the perfect film for 2020. Fun and action for all the family, a great cast and a little nostalgia to get us through a tough year.”
It did not stop at films, as television caught our attention, too, with Outlander – the complete 5th series (Sony) taking out the number one spot of most purchased in the category, followed by Brooklyn 99 – the complete 7th series (Universal), and the 100 – the complete 7th series (Warner Bros). Interestingly, the much-hyped series The Undoing starring Nicole Kidman made its way into the top 5 for the year having only been made available from November 2020.
The most-transacted Australian produced titles across digital platforms included Ride Like a Girl (Sony), The Invisible Man (2020) (Universal) (and, yes, I’m as shocked as you are that that was Australian produced!), as well as Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears (Roadshow).
Why the impact, here, in Australia?
While many Australian movie theatres have been able to operate in some capacity for most of the last 15 months, the impacts of COVID in Europe and the US has seen many studios delay or pull large budget films from the release schedule or push them to streaming services. While digital consumption initially flourished at the onset of COVID-19 outbreaks, it levelled out in time. As the closure of cinemas through the middle of the year and the subsequent lack of theatrical films happened, as production companies delayed releases and prior to going full digital, digital transactional services saw a decline in consumption. Digital purchases (-26% in quarter 3) and digital rental (-12% in quarter 3) stumbled as the year progressed, but came back strong.
Ultimately, though, the cinematic disruption, aligned with the consequences of the pandemic, positively impacted the digital transaction market as a resurgence of classic films and fan favourites led the way. As the availability of new release content started to slow, Australian’s accessed much-loved classics including titles such as Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.
With so many services — Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Telstra Box Office, and Fetch, and even Disney+ offering premium rentals — offering a comprehensive selection of films to rent or purchase shortly after their scheduled cinematic release, we found Aussies to accessing the titles they wanted, when they wanted, from preferred digital platforms, as opposed to waiting until they became more readily available on streaming services or chancing the movie theatre.
A New Way? Is streaming the future?
The rumblings have been heard for a long time for the physical cinematic experience. A night out to the movies is an expensive proposition and that is just for the tickets. The candy bar prices add insult to injury. (Yes, I understand the financial distribution between cinema and candy bar. But that is irrelevant here.)
Depending on where you are, the standard ticket price is $20-25 per adult and $10-15 per child. When you add that up for a family of five or six (in Kevin’s case, 2 adults, 1 student, 3 children), that’s over $100. If you throw in dinner before or after, some drinks, chips or popcorn, or even some sweets to eat during during, and you are well north of $200 for a once off event.
Comparatively, if you consider the streaming subscription options. A monthly fee will give you a plethora of options for all ages. You can play something over and over (hello Frozen, Frozen 2, Moana), start, pause, resume whenever you want. As a time poor parent I would occasionally sneak in an episode of something when I am wolfing down a late brunch at 3pm as a treat. Purchasing the odd favourite movie, to ensure your little one’s go-to movie doesn’t disappear off a streaming service, it can add up but it is still much more viable.
Even before COVID, going to the movies was a treat for many. My brother, like Kevin, has four kids. Both have a spread of age from around 2 years to early teens. With an age spread like that, it is hard to get something one size fits all and expect everyone to sit through 90 minutes or so. COVID-19 has drastically changed the landscape for disposable income and it is really not hard to see the value proposition of streaming.
Taking a few examples:
- Disney+ – $11.99 /month (massive kid-friendly library, with a massive new range of content for the teens and grown-ups under Disney Star!)
- Netflix – between $10.99 – 19.99/month depending on plan
- Amazon Prime – $12.99/month (with free shipping from Amazon and a few other perks!)
If you add the apprehensions of attending public places with lots of other people, throw in the ability to rent or purchase a movie at a premium that is in (or just out of) movie theatres, suddenly you can consume your entertainment the comfort and safety of your own home. And it becomes a much cheaper option, even with subscription streaming services on your monthly expense list.
Now, finally, add in free-to-air TV and free streaming services like iView, SBS on Demand, and also general YouTube, there’s a LOT of content for you and the whole family.
While it’s far from doom and gloom for the box office and the movie theatre experience, with Wonder Woman 1984 generating $24M & Croods 2 $18M in box office revenue in Australia, data shows indicates a healthy appetite for returning to cinema. But, if nothing else, COVID truly has changed the face of entertainment and how we consume it forevermore!
What hit the top 10 this past year?
While Jim Batchelor’s favourite movie of 2020 was Dark Waters, what were YOU watching? If you are curious as to what has been popular in the land of Aus in terms of digital purchases and rentals, here are the Top 10s.
Top 10 Best Selling Movies
1. Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
2. Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount)
3. Frozen 2 (Disney)
4. Joker (2019) (Roadshow)
5. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise Of Skywalker (Disney)
6. Bad Boys For Life (Sony)
7. The Gentlemen (Roadshow)
8. Bloodshot (Sony)
9. Scoob! (Warner Bros)
10. Ford V Ferrari (Disney)
Top 10 Rented Movies
1. Joker (2019) (Roadshow)
2. Sonic The Hedgehog (Paramount)
3. The Gentlemen (Roadshow)
4. Jumanji: The Next Level(Sony)
5. Gemini Man (2019) (Paramount)
6. 1917 (Entertainment One)
7. Knives Out (Sony)
8. Ford V Ferrari (Disney)
9. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (Sony)
10. Hustlers (Roadshow)
Top 10 TV Series
1. Outlander – The Complete 5th Series (Sony)
2. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – The Complete 7th Series (Universal)
3. The 100 – The Complete 7th Series (Warner Bros)
4. Vikings – The Complete 6th Series (MGM)
5. The Undoing – The Complete 1st Series (HBO)
6. Supernatural – The Complete 15th Series (Warner Bros)
7. Big Little Lies – The Complete 2nd Series (HBO)
8. Game Of Thrones – The Complete 8th Series (HBO)
9. Chernobyl – The Complete 1st Series (HBO)
10. Succession – The Complete 1st Series (HBO)
Top 10 Australian Produced Movies
1. Ride Like A Girl (Sony)
2. The Invisible Man (2020) (Universal)
3. Miss Fisher & The Crypt Of Tears (Roadshow)
4. Danger Close: The Battle Of Long Tan (Sony)
5. 100% Wolf (Universal)
6. Go! (Roadshow)
7. Peter Rabbit (Sony)
8. Black Water: Abyss (Universal)
9. Carl Barron – Drinking With A Fork (Universal)
10. The Nightingale (Sony)