On with the show as ABC dramas hit global screens

The international TV market has become hungry for more distinct and ambitious content.Selling Australian TV to the world. Could it be as easy as ABC?

The commercial sector’s historical dominance of the global program sales market has been overshadowed by an almost unprecedented run of program and format sales by Australia’s national broadcaster.

Following deals for The Doctor Blake Mysteries and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, both of which have been sold to channels in Britain, comes news that another ABC series, Please Like Me, has been sold to the US this week. Those deals follow others for the critically acclaimed drama Rake, which is being remade by the US network Fox, as well as deals for Dance Academy, Review with Myles Barlow and another acclaimed drama, The Slap.

The deal for Please Like Me, the ABC2 comedy starring Josh Thomas, was only finalised in the past few days. It will be aired in the US on a new cable channel, Pivot. The channel’s president, Evan Shapiro, said the concept resonated because it was ”unique and authentic”.

It caps off an extraordinary year in program and format sales for the ABC, notably including US remakes of Review with Myles Barlow and Rake. Other ABC comedies, such as Laid and The Strange Calls, were bought by US studios and while they have not yet progressed past the development stage they are still a powerful measure of international interest in Australian scripted content.

What makes the new trend interesting is that it defies the historic dominance of the program sales market by commercial broadcasters, who have built their global businesses on program volume and high price tags.

America’s commercial networks, for example, have historically controlled blue-chip programming such as Desperate Housewives and Lost. But in the past decade edgy cable dramas, such as Breaking Bad, Damages, Boardwalk Empire and the new, critically acclaimed series Ray Donovan, have come to dominate the TV sales business.

In striking contrast, Australia’s commercial networks continue to play inside safe boundaries, particularly when it comes to scripted drama and comedy.

The latter, in particular, has been a long-standing challenge for commercial broadcasters.

In contrast, the international TV market, shaped by the US model and also the success of Danish dramas such as The Killing, The Bridge and Borgen, has become hungry for more distinct and ambitious content.

With an increase in drama funding, a raft of new ABC commissions – notably dramas like The Dr Blake Mysteries and The Slap – have won international attention.

Australian cable dramas, such as Tangle and Wentworth, are also attractive international offerings. Wentworth has been sold to New Zealand, Germany and Britain since its debut two months ago.

Dr Blake producer and writer George Adams said the sale of his series was ”a tremendous validation of the hard work put in by our entire cast and crew”.

”We hope that the domestic, and now international, recognition of the show goes some way to repaying the commitment shown by [its financiers] ABC TV, Screen Australia and Film Victoria.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.