<br>


More Australian content, less dependence on US studio output and a potential new player in US online giant Netflix are among the challenges the Australian broadcast television market is facing in 2014.

With analog television switching off at the end of this year, the future is one where set-top boxes have the potential to equalise bigger channels - Nine, Seven, Ten, ABC and SBS - and their lesser cousins, Go, 7Two, One and ABC2, as well as cable TV and other online offerings, such as Quickflix and Foxtel Play.

Although a proliferation of big-budget content on flagship channels will keep most eyeballs there, the ratings grid has already seen a significant flattening across the board.

<br>


More people are watching, which is a good sign overall, but they are watching more channels, or using alternate sources of television, such as online services and tablet or mobile devices, which means fewer people are watching any one channel at any time.

Tent-pole shows can still draw audiences of up to 2 million people, but overnight ratings data shows the major commercial channels are struggling to tip most of their nightly schedule over the 1 million viewer mark as they did in past years.

Change will come in 2014 on a number of fronts, the most significant of which will be technological.

Foxtel, which is fighting to lift its subscription numbers, will face a potential new rival in the US online content provider Netflix, which is said to be mulling an Australian push, despite the risk that it will only be able to offer Australian consumers a smaller library than its US counterpart, which Australian consumers can already access by bypassing ''geo-blocking'' filters.

A number of players are already establishing a foothold in the ''over the top'' sector, including EzyFlix, Fetch TV, Quickflix, BigPond Movies and Foxtel's own offering, Foxtel Play.

There will also be major structural change in the business, as a lower dependence on US content drives down the already questionable value of locking up content in ''output deals''.

The logical follow-on to that will be the possible dismantling of US output deals - Ten's with Fox, Nine's with Warner Bros and Seven's with Disney - which presently soak up more than $1 billion for historically low returns.

At Seven, for example, the hit US series The Blacklist does not come from the network's output deal with Disney, but rather it is a one-off purchase from the US studio Sony, which sells its content on a show-by-show basis.

In an interview before the international program sales market Mipcom this year, Nine's CEO David Gyngell, whose deal with Warner Bros is one of the most expensive at $500 million, flagged the possibility of a future where US content is second-tier.

''Most US shows don't work,'' Gyngell said in an interview headlined: ''Who needs Hollywood?''

''Localism is what it's all about,'' he added. ''We are committed to local production.''

And he is not alone. Most of the content unveiled at the 2014 ''upfronts'' - a series of sales presentations outlining next year's TV content - was Australian, even if, in some cases, it was Australian versions of international formats, such as Ten's So You Think You Can Dance Australia or Nine's Married at First Sight.

 

What you’ll be watching in 2014

INXS: Never Tear Us Apart (Seven): the story of the iconic Australian band.

 The Killing Field (Seven): Rebecca Gibney plays the head of a police taskforce.

Schapelle (Nine): tele-movie based on the arrest, trial and conviction of Schapelle Corby.

Fat Tony and Co (Nine): the fight to bring Mokbel to justice.

The Great Australian Race Riot (SBS): journalist Peter Fitzsimons explores Australia’s history of racism, riots and reconciliation.

Old School (ABC): a retired cop (Sam Neill) and a retired crim (Bryan Brown) team up to solve crimes.

The Recruit (Fox 8): reality series about the search for an undiscovered football player who will win an AFL contract.

Gina (Nine): two-part miniseries about billionaire Gina Rinehart.

The Real Housewives of Melbourne (Arena): reality series about a group of A-list Melbourne socialites. 

Utopia (ABC): satire from Working Dog about the machinery of government.

Australia: The Story of Us (Seven): the definitive history of Australia.

The Embassy: Bangkok (Nine): reality series on Australia’s diplomatic corps. 

Rectify (SBS): drama about a man (Aden Young) exonerated after 19 years on death row.

Secrets and Lies (Ten): six-part murder conspiracy drama starring New Zealand actor Martin Henderson.