The Australian Broadband Advisory Committee has released a paper on promoting opportunities for the Australian Creative Industry in the digital space.
The Creative Industry is comprised of multiple sectors which work to blend innovation, technologies, and a highly skilled and innovative workforce. These sectors are important as they create wealth and jobs through the development or production of intellectual property, impacting significantly on the rest of the economy – and reflecting our national identity.
While Australia has ‘outperformed’ in the creative arts, the Australian Creative Industry traditionally has been slow to adopt new technologies. As digital spaces become the primary spaces for creativity, Australia’s great pool of highly creative talent is not being utilised.
With our lives being ‘always-on, always-connected’, creating new content to inform and entertain is ‘huge business’. It is also an environment in which innovative, authentic or fresh content – which we have been good at in ‘traditional’ media like film - is the ‘killer app’ – which is tailor-made for a small, disruptive industry like the Australian Content Industry.
ABAC’s paper addresses the two sides of the Australia Creative Industry - the commercial industry and the arts sector. ABAC’s focus is on how to leverage Australia’s broadband infrastructure for the commercial industry to gain a greater and higher value share of the global market.
ABAC argues that there is a conjunction of opportunities which, if grasped now, will allow the Australian Creative Industry to quickly bridge the digital gap. This includes some obvious factors, including the explosive growth of streaming and immersive content and the impact of COVID-19 on the embrace of technologies generally and within the creative industry. But there are also some other important shifts – the move of talent, focus and capital away from Silicon Valley, Hollywood etc opens more commercial opportunities for the Australian Creative Industry to participate in the global markets.
The Council has identified nine key drivers of change and success in the creative industry:
What’s the SWOT?
ABAC lists the strengths of the Australian Creative Industries as:
- A strong talent base of creatives and professionals, and a healthy academic training infrastructure, both in a stable political, legal and social environment;
- A healthy ecosystem of production environments and support capabilities with meaningful economic incentive programs; and
- The NBN and other broadband infrastructure which provide wide geographic connectivity.
What does ABAC see as the challenges:
- Geographical distance and different time zones;
- A small scale of existing participants;
- Content investor and distributor concentration outside of Australia;
- Competition over limited resources and talent in the lowest parts of the value chain, which the ABAC colourfully describes as the problem of ‘A Bunch of Seagulls Chasing Chips’; and
- COVID-19 and the impact on skilled labour.
So, how do we bridge this gap?
The ABAC identified four key success factors:
1. Expand IP ownership in Australia
The most important things do not change: ABAC argues that the traditional value chain in content has not altered in the era of new media for distribution and consumption:
“…whether the design creates a story delivered in a cinema, on a screen, or on a smartphone, the decisions around the value of content created are driven top down by this value chain. Opportunities, value, jobs and economic growth exist in every layer of this chain. However, the decision making and margins for sustainable investment decisions flow from the top.”
Therefore, our efforts in promoting digital opportunities for the Australian Creative Industry has to be on the ‘creativity’ – encouraging and rewarding, creative effort, and wrapping it in IP rights that are owned in Australia.
2. Talent and Skills
If the foundation of a strong and growing Australian Creative Industry is the IP it creates, then the skills and talent to create it are vital. While ABAC thought the talent pool was pretty good, there were gaps:
- an insufficient high-end talent that can drive the projects and IP development necessary to grow their business to a greater scale;
- an insufficient job-ready graduates and mid-tier skilled people from the education and vocational institutions;
- a fraction of the volume of skilled people entering the industry needed to sustain growth;
- a lack of entrepreneurial skill and experience to seed new and innovative businesses to address demand emerging in different sectors and geographies
Whilst there are benefits of businesses attracting high-end talent from overseas, there is also strong desire to self-develop these higher end skills within the Australian supply-chain. ABAC notes, as a rule of thumb, ‘we will be successful when the net outcome of our efforts to scale the Australian Creative Industry makes it a destination for the world’s leading and aspiring talents, not a source’.
3. Encourage Crossover of Creative Sectors
This is about the opportunities which come from pushing the creative arts into everyday life, or as ABAC puts it more poetically:
“The Creative Industry is increasingly able to bring the most magical elements of artistic expression into our physical experiences using advanced technologies. Globally, this area of investment is becoming a means of drawing audiences to specific locations as a part of other aligned or adjacent business sectors like retail, food and beverage. There is also increasing use of immersive experiences in creative sectors like museums, sports venues, and performing arts.”
The sense from the paper is that this global development is passing by the Australian Creative Industry, which continues to work in ‘silos’, often reinforced by the traditional Government approach to arts funding. The Australian companies that are making some headway in crossover are working mainly overseas.
ABAC saw some crossover opportunities where Australia could play to its strengths – e-sports and immersive tourist experiences. There are some exciting crossover experiments such as the Australian Centre for Moving Image in Melbourne and the Urban Arts Project (UAP) project in Brisbane.
4. Invest in digital clusters
This is probably the more interesting idea – and the one that potentially leverages the rollout of the NBN broadband capability.
ABAC observed that “[t]oday, the Australian Creative Industry is overly concentrated in capital cities, with about one third of the entire workforce located in Sydney alone.”
The aim of investing in digital clusters across Australia would be to develop creative skill centres. Digital hubs can ensure a better alignment with where the individuals involved in the creative industry are educated, trained and want to live (e.g. NBN Co’s Business Fibre Zones). Examples of this throughout the rest of the world include SoHo in London, Manhattan Beach in LA and Emeryville in Oakland, but the difference here is that digital connectivity can allow for smaller, more diversified digital hubs which, because of the high level of connectedness, don’t need the scale of those more traditional hub models to achieve a level of ‘creative critical mass’ (Byron Baes but with creativity rather than gossip as the digital enabler!).
What are Australian companies currently doing to lead the way?
The ABAC paper includes some case studies of Australian creative digital success stories around whose stories ABAC would like to build a more systemic, focused approach: i.e. ‘bottle’ how they did it.
Animal Logic: an independent Australian digital screen content studio with a long history of world-leading innovation. In response to COVID-19, Animal Logic made substantial investments in infrastructure and operational capability to allow and encourage staff to work remotely. This has been critical to attract and retain skilled crew, meet its production needs, and maintain a global competitive edge. Animal Logic believes that industry and education partnerships are key to finding and retaining people that are a good fit for the business.
Mighty Kingdom: an online game developer, with a niche for children, youths, and women, are now being approached by content and production companies for partnership due to their narrative style and use of products. An example of this being their innovative approach to developing a narrative engine, taking the programming out of developing content for mobile games. The gaming industry is a very significant player in the creative industry. Established tech players Apple and Google are now making a significant portion of their store revenue from games – an example of crossover of creative sectors. The spending on mobile games alone in 2021 was expected to reach approximately $89.6 billion across the App Store and Google Play. Mighty Kingdom have incorporated machine learning to increase the productivity of processes and allow for a greater focus on content development.
Greatest of All Time Interactive (GOATi): is a company focused on future game delivery, for example business models for e-sports, global games delivery and content creation. In a display of gutsy ambition, GOATi are building their own technology platforms rather than using the common game engines, Unity and Unreal. They are utilising broadband connectivity to dilute geography as a limiting factor. Trying to keep the company in Australia, they are investing revenue back into the company rather than seeking US investment. They support harnessing technology in Australia in order to bring our talent home. They also support an emergent technology fund or program that crosses over with media/entertainment to help build the next Google or Netflix of Australia.
Authors: Daisy Cullen and Peter Waters