New research shows that the strong preference for Hollywood films in Australian cinemas is not so overwhelming online.

This is just one aspect of Online and on Demand: Trends in Australian Online Video Use, a report that Screen Australia described as “the first major profile” of Australian video-on-demand (VOD) audiences when it was released today at the annual Screen Producers Association conference.

When asked about their cinema habits:

  • 59% of all Australian VOD users say they go to Hollywood films,
  • 31% say they go to Australian films
  • 21% say they go to independent/arthouse films.

Hollywood also dominates the VOD environment but not as much:

  • 33% say they watch Hollywood films
  • 20% say they watch Australian films
  • 21% say they watch independent/arthouse films.

This inclination towards a more mixed diet occurs across all small screens. In the case of broadcast TV for example, which is the most popular platform for watching homegrown films, 43% of VOD users say they watch Australian films and 45% say they watch US films.

The new report examines Australian vs Hollywood vs independent/arthouse preferences via the four types of VOD too: catch-up television provided by broadcasters and supported by advertising or taxpayer funding; other advertising supported services such as YouTube; subscription services such as Quickflix and Foxtel Presto; and transactional services such as iTunes.

But Australian and foreign TV series are driving VOD in Australia, not movies, and it would be misleading to call VOD growth dramatic. Australians still spend most of their time watching content on traditional platforms so what they watch has not changed much. Even those who regularly pay for VOD content are hungry for content across all platforms.

For this study, 81% of Australia’s population is defined as an Internet user, that is, anyone aged 16 years and over who has been active online at least once a month. Half of this 81% are watching a small proportion of their professionally produced film, television and video diet online – up from 43% in 2012 – and these people are those described as VOD viewers in the report.

High costs, a lack of technical know-how and slow Internet speeds are barriers to online take-up – there are one in five VOD viewers with high-speed connections and they are almost twice as likely to consider using subscription VOD services.

One trend is that VOD is a more solitary activity: 58% of VOD viewers report that the main way they watch is alone and 88% said that being alone is one of the ways they watch.

A general reluctance to pay much for content was identified with 50% of VOD viewers reporting that they have no interest in paid models.

Australians are not accustomed to paying for television. Subscription TV has never exceeded 40% of households in Australia and there is no requirement to have a TV licence.

The report paints the online video market as fragmented but set for a shake-up with the arrival of Netflix and new providers such as Stan, a partnership between publisher Fairfax and the Nine Network.

Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason said there is much to be excited about in the VOD space but cost is a concern for industry: “The challenge is to find ways to monetize content through these new platforms as they increasingly disrupt traditional business models and teach us to expect to have it all, easily and cheaply, at our fingertips and on any device.”

On the piracy front: three per cent only view illegally, 25% use legal and illegal services, and 69% only view legally.

Standalone laptops and PCs are used by 67% of VOD users, a TV-connected device (ie PVR, laptop, smart TV, games console, etc) by 49%, a tablet by 24% and a mobile phone by 10%.

Screen Australia commissioned by Nielsen to run focus groups and the survey included 1,593 respondents.