Documentaries embrace "lean in" audiences

By / 24th of March, 2014

New ways of consuming media was the focus of a five-day documentary festival that recently finished in Adelaide, South Australia.

Delegates at DocWeek, an acclaimed international documentary festival, stressed that the industry must embrace new broadcasting technology and that Asian audiences are just beginning to discover multiscreen viewing.

“We will try to reach the audience where they are,” said ABC Controller of Multi-platform Arul Baskaran at this year’s Australian International Documentary Conference, which forms part of the DocWeek festival.

He was surmising the multiscreen philosophy behind Australia’s leading public broadcaster whose cross platform audience has grown exponentially in the past five years.

Today 90 per cent of their audience is engaging with ABC iview their ‘catch up’ television platform. He said 40 per cent of its content is viewed within 24 hours of its television broadcast. Overall that equates to 20 million views per month.

As the viewing habits of Australian audiences shift from the television screen to smart phones and tablets, so does the way content is made.

While documentary conferences around the world still grapple with this, AIDC Director Joost den Hartog has embraced it.

For him a core focus of the conference is to not only prepare the industry for what is coming but also show the reality of where they are.

“This year, it’s very, very evident that the content industry has converged,” he told IF magazine. “The strategy’s digital, the strategy’s online. We’re not looking at the future anymore: it’s here, it’s now, and it’s very different. The consequences are huge.”

The conference held sessions that focused on the digital landscape and multi-platformed documentaries for the first time this year.

Key to these sessions was to prepare traditional documentary filmmakers with the technology and production philosophies that take factual programming to the next level.

The winner of the People's Choice Award at DocWeek, raised $25,520 in a Pozible campaign to produce their interactive web documentary

The future is no longer about sitting back and letting a broadcaster tell you what you will be watching tonight. Now it is a ‘lean in’ approach where audiences dictate for themselves what they want to watch through catch-up platforms and video-on-demand.

While Australian audiences are quick to embrace this new model of programming it is a very different story in Asia.

Michele Schofield, Senior Vice President of Programming and Marketing for A+E Networks All Asia informed Australian producers of the slow uptake of viewing on multiple screens in the region.

She believes, however, it will not take long to catch up as 64 per cent of the world’s middle class is predicted to be residing in the region within 15 years.

Hartog has embraced this burgeoning opportunity in Asia.

In recent years he has shifted his gaze from the United States and Europe, courting Chinese and other Asian broadcasters to the conference. This year he also created the Asia Pacific New Documentary Program.

The new program is open to emerging filmmakers in the region to showcase their work in a competitive documentary festival. They are also invited to attend the conference participating in a series of professional development workshops with networking opportunities. In its inaugural year the program hosted filmmakers from Australia, New Zealand, China, New Caledonia, Malaysia, India and Vanuatu.

Some 500 delegates attended more than 40 sessions across five days. And although many producers, broadcasters and buyers from Australia and the world converged on Adelaide during its peak festival period in March, Hartog said tracking the deals that are made over the conference is difficult.

“It’s about the relationship that starts here,” he says. “What it does do is tie Adelaide to a global market and gives them a seat at the table.”

Key contacts

Joost den Hartog Director AIDC
61 8 8394 2595