Is SBS gearing up for an advertising boom?

5.6 million Australians use another language other than English at home, yet when was the last time you heard an advertisement on mainstream Australian media in any other dialect?

If your reply was, “Why, just now as a matter-of-fact”, then it’s highly likely you’re listening to a program on SBS Audio. It might even be one delivered in Bislama, which is a language mostly spoken in Vanuatu. Or Oromo, which is from Ethiopia. SBS caters to both, and many more.

Earlier this year, SBS Radio rebranded to SBS Audio, placing all its sonic output under one umbrella. It also concluded its language services review, based on the 2021 census, which identified a number of languages used in Australian homes that had fallen through the cracks. From October 5, SBS Audio will deliver programming in over sixty languages.

The broadcaster has also added more live radio, by better utilising its full spectrum across seven stations: SBS Radio 1, SBS Radio 2, SBS Radio 3, SBS PopDesi, SBS Arabic 24, SBS PopAsia, and SBS Chill.

As David Hua, director of audio language content at SBS, tells Mumbrella: “It’s been a big year for us.”

“Every five years, SBS conducts a review of its languages to ensure we’re effectively serving our multilingual communities and reflecting modern Australia,” Hua explains.

As a result of this recent review, SBS Audio added five new language programs to its offering — the aforementioned Bislama and Oromo; Malay, as spoken in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia; Telugu (spoken in India); and Tetum – spoken in Timor-Leste and West Timor.

With this, SBS Audio will serve 92% of all households that speak non-English at home.

SBS has also rejigged its radio schedule across its linear and digital audio platforms.

“We looked at the SBS radio schedule and this update reflects the way Australians are listening today – more podcasts at night and more live radio during the day to meet the preferences of our audiences across linear and digital audio platforms,” Hua said.

Podcasting is a big play for SBS.

“Our news podcasts, including SBS News In Depth and SBS News Updates typically appear in each month’s top 150 Australian podcasts, along with some of our LOTE [languages other than English] offerings, and limited run series like Seen and The Idiom.”

SBS landed four shows in the Australian Podcast Ranker for August, with its highest placing being SBS News In Depth, which netted over half a million downloads for the month. SBS currently draws 5.9 million audio plays a month across all its offerings.

“Our strategy is to continue to grow our presence in the space,” Hua says of the SBS podcast play.

As for plans to add SBS audio to On Demand — the broadcaster’s digital video streaming service — Hua said he has “nothing to announce on this”, but notes, “we’re always looking for ways to make SBS’s amazing audio content more accessible across our platforms.”

With this content now reaching over 92% of non-English speaking households, surely advertisers are falling all over themselves to reach this previously untouchable audience.

“It’s been a massive year for SBS Audio, and commercially we’re seeing brands respond to that,” confirms Julie Newton-Werro, national manager of radio sales and LOTE media.

“Not only have we redefined the content offering, but the benefit of digital for advertisers is that it is all measurable.”

SBS will reveal more on its measurable digital advertising play at the station’s Upfront in late October.

“Australian brands want to reach the ‘real Australia’ and SBS Audio is doing just that,” Newton-Werro tells Mumbrella.

“With our programs both on linear radio and digital, you are reaching hard to get audiences across multicultural and multilingual communities.”


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