Four new ‘slow’ programs, Mastermind and a new brand positioning for SBS in 2019

SBS has re-positioned itself as a brand with ‘a world of difference’, announced a month of slow TV, new local drama and the launch of an Australian version of popular UK gameshow Mastermind at its 2019 upfronts.

At the upfronts in Sydney yesterday, SBS revealed four new slow TV events will run through January. It also announced Scott Cam, Kurt Furnley, Rodger Corser and Casey Donovan as the stars of Who Do You Think You Are?, along with 15 scripted and non scripted short form productions for SBS On Demand.

The spotlight was also placed on Australian women’s sport, particularly the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, W-League, and WNBL.

Newly commissioned Australian documentaries include Australia in Colour and My Family Secret starring Noni Hazlehurst. Returning for 2019 is Medicine or Myth? Struggle Street, Secrets of Our Cities, and Marry Me, Marry My Family. New drama series include Hungry Ghosts, a four-part series which explores the lives of three generations of Vietnamese Australian families, and The Hunt, which tackles the social media era and all its issues.

SBS’ Eurovision coverage will be extended, with the network to run its own party, Eurovision – Australia Decides, to give Australians the opportunity to decide the contestant who will compete at the global competition. At the same time, SBS announced it had commissioned 85, 30 minute episodes of UK quiz show, Mastermind.

Marshall Heald, SBS Director of TV and Online Content, said it was the perfect commission to lead the evolution of SBS 6pm timeslot.

“Famous for its challenging questions, intimidating setting and air of seriousness, this iconic BBC game show will celebrate Australian’s general knowledge and fierce competitive nature in a fun nightly challenge as they compete for the prestigious title of Australia’s Mastermind. We can’t wait to launch it in 2019,” Heald said.

Focus was also placed on SBS’ multi-channels, SBS Food and SBS Viceland, as well as streaming service SBS on Demand. SBS Food’s Gourmet Farmer with Matthew Evans, and Ainsley’s Market Menu will both return in 2019, and will be joined by Luke Nguyen’s new show, Luke On a Train.

On SBS Viceland, The Feed will return alongside new seasons of Wellington Paranormal, The Orville, You’re The Worst and Brooklyn 99. NITV will feature a new documentary exploring First Nations culture and stories with all Australians.

At the same time, SBS unveiled its new branding, ‘a world of difference’, marking a pivot from its ‘join in’ tagline which was introduced in 2014. “Join in” replaced “six billion stories and counting”. According to SBS’ head of marketing Jane Palfreyman, the new branding seeks to suggest SBS’ “collective differences” make for a better society and better entertainment.

“While other brands seek to align themselves with a purpose, ours is intrinsically who we are. In 2008, six billion stories and counting was a beautiful brand proposition, that clearly defined this purpose. But in 2019, we want to do more. At a time when you see other media brands grappling to reflect the true makeup of Australia, SBS’ new rebrand will better articulate our commitment to contributing to an inclusive society,” Palfreyman said.

After the upfronts, newly appointed managing director James Taylor told Mumbrella the company saw everyone as competition, but was running its own race.

“Every decision needs to source from your purpose and it needs to be in service of your audience. We don’t have a finite or fixed view on the right array of products or propositions to our audiences, but we are very focused on making sure it’s right for our audiences. We are happy with our current mix, we are happy with our content lineup,” Taylor told Mumbrella.

“Our content proposition is quite different. 91% of audiences tell us they find stuff on SBS they can’t find anywhere else. That’s really important for us. It’s important for us to be distinctive in a competitive and cluttered market.

“The other thing I’d say is that we have five minutes of advertising per hour, that’s quite differentiated from our competitors. It provides a low clutter, premium environment, it allows the content to shine.”

Taylor, who replaced longstanding managing director, Michael Ebeid, said he was pleased with the year on year growth in advertising revenue, which he says is reinvested in making Australian content. But, like the commercial free to air broadcasters, Taylor said SBS will have a number of challenges going into 2019.

“Anyone that is trying to attract the attention of audiences is competing for that attention. The way we do it is to have a really distinct proposition, to be really clear about who we are and what we stand for. The world of difference brand positioning, that really typifies who we are as a network. There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition, as long we can demonstrate that all of our decisions are sourced from our purpose and our charter which they are,” he said.

“There a couple of challenges. Obviously we are competing with players that are on global scale, with global formats, so that obviously present the challenge for us to be more effective and efficient and more clear about who we are in that market. The other thing is trust. Trust is a challenge to all media organisations. We live in a world of polarising views, we live in a world of decreasing trust in institutions.

“My mission is for us to be more focused on who we are, to have a strong self belief about that.”

Taylor was coy around who would replace chief content officer John Sintras, telling Mumbrella it was “business as usual”.

“I’m a month into the role. It is really important to look at the world from the new position and understand it. SBS is a story of enduring evolution. I’ll make an assessment about that. What I’m so pleased about is we have such a strong content team,” Taylor said.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.