It's no secret what a big deal streaming television is.

Massive series like Orange is the New Black, Transparent and 11.22.63 are backed by major players such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu and taking over the internet.

A scene from Netflix's original series Orange Is The New Black.
A scene from Netflix's original series Orange Is The New Black.

But here in New Zealand, our Kiwi creators have largely had to go it alone.

Flat 3, which started three years ago, is an original Kiwi web series - the second to hit our screens after Auckland Daze. Since its launch three years ago, it's built a following of more than 3000 subscribers on YouTube and its videos have clocked up at least 10,000 viewers each, some reaching as high as 39,000.

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The core team behind it - Roseanne Liang, Kerry Warkia, JJ Fong, Ally Xue and Perlina Lau - now head Flat 3 Productions which is premiering a new series called Friday Night Bites this month.

Relative newcomer on the scene Auckward Love - due to premiere its second season this month - debuted just last year and has begun to build a dedicated fan base.

It's clocked up around 30,000 views and more than 400 subscribers on YouTube in the past year, which is impressive considering its channel has been sustained only by the content its makers first posted 10 months ago.

These two shows depict what life is like for 20-somethings in New Zealand, from flatting and relationships to sex and heartbreak. There's a tonne of sexual content and even more swearing, and they've both earned praise for their realism, relatability, and no-holds-barred approaches to storytelling.

It's the kind of storytelling that simply wouldn't fly on network television - and that's why they do it.

Streaming = Freedom

The Flat 3 team say they're open to TV, but not at the price of compromising
The Flat 3 team say they're open to TV, but not at the price of compromising "who we are". Photo / TVNZ
Flat 3

's Fong says there's simply "more creative freedom" online, particularly given their content is "quite dirty".

"There's lots of swearing and sex. We just shot a dildo episode - I don't know if that would go down well on national TV. We would like to think in the future it would," she says.

It also gave them their first chance to work on a show which had three Asian women as the leads - something they'd never even dreamed of seeing on television.

The new series, Friday Night Bites is a continuation from Flat 3, but with a whole different format. Photo / YouTube
The new series, Friday Night Bites is a continuation from Flat 3, but with a whole different format. Photo / YouTube

"We want to make it the norm, that you can get two Asian people on screen who don't have to be related, they don't have to be Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, they can just be two people on screen who happen to be Asian and that's it," says Xue.

To which Fong adds: "We want to stop being the token".

Auckward Love's Jess Sayer agrees, saying with streamed content they can get away with more, and tell the stories that aren't being told on television, through characters who aren't being seen or heard.

"It just baffles me that it's 2016 and we're still not seeing women on screen as women really are. You know, we can talk about female masturbation and they can go into a sex shop and do what women do.

"The way people have relationships has changed. It's a lot more fluid now - how we express our sexuality; even that's not really getting put on screens."

Jess Holly Bates, Luci Hare, Holly Shervey and Jess Sayer from Auckward Love. Photo / Sacha Stejko
Jess Holly Bates, Luci Hare, Holly Shervey and Jess Sayer from Auckward Love. Photo / Sacha Stejko

As a writer on a handful of network shows, Sayer says they have "so much more to consider than we do - which is why this is really exciting.

"There's no control, no outside influences, there's just us and our ideas and we just shoot it how we want to shoot it, say what we want to say."

If you want something done right...

Both teams started their shows because no one else was giving them the opportunities they were looking for, so they made their own.

"As an actor, unless you're happy to sit around and twiddle your thumbs and wait for something to come to you, it's not going to happen. There is such a need for new voices and new work, so because of that, there was no risk. We were working, we were writing, we were creating, and if people didn't watch it, fine. But they did," Sayer says.

Her Auckward Love co-star Holly Shervey says streaming is a much quicker way to get content to the people.

Auckward Love isn't afraid to look at the ugly side of life. Photo / YouTube
Auckward Love isn't afraid to look at the ugly side of life. Photo / YouTube

"We like to work quite fast and furiously so if we have an idea we want to get it out there. We never thought of it as a network series, it was always made for online," she says.

"With a network show, taking it through the TV process is huge and it can take a very long time. There's a lot more hoops to jump through and there's a lot of groundwork to even get the bones of the idea to the right people where you can even get it story-lined," Sayer explains.

They all use the same word: Freedom.

Show me the money

They've found success and fans and later this month, Flat 3 Productions' new series Friday Night Bites and season two of Auckward Love are both set to premiere on TVNZ On Demand.

The trick now is getting New Zealand's industry to the place America's is at; where creating content like Flat 3 and Auckward Love is not only financially sustainable, but profitable.

We need to get to a point where making a hit as big as Stranger Things is financially possible.
We need to get to a point where making a hit as big as Stranger Things is financially possible.

The demand for online content in New Zealand is growing so rapidly that New Zealand on Air specifically created a web series fund in 2013, which funds projects by up to $100,000 each.

The first year they only got 54 applications, but by last year that had doubled - as did the number of series they funded, which went from four to eight.

And the Auckward Love team - too impatient to wait for funding - had to crowdfund just to make their second season.

Flat 3 on the other hand, actually managed to score funding, but even then there's not enough. They get $100,000 which they have to supplement both as a condition of the funding, and as a case of having to - $100,000 doesn't go as far as you'd think.

The shows aim to depict what real life is like for real Kiwi women. Photo / YouTube
The shows aim to depict what real life is like for real Kiwi women. Photo / YouTube

"We're not in the business of, 'oh, this is just a stepping stone to get on to TV,'" says Xue.


"We want to be able to live off making content for the web," adds Fong.

"We have some friends in the US - Wong Foo - and they now are a sustainable channel on YouTube ... it's their livelihood and that's kind of what we'd like to happen in New Zealand. That's the dream."

But even so, not one of them is willing to give up what they do.

Sayer says: "We're quite fascinated by what we're not being given on network TV, the holes that are there and how we can fill them. Just the freedom of streaming - I don't think you can beat it. It's too much fun."

Friday Night Bites launches with three episodes on TVNZ On Demand from September 16, then a new episode every Friday at midday.

Auckward Love's Season Two will be available on TVNZ On Demand from September 22.