SBS 2021: 5 new dramas, 10 documentaries and 200 episodes of Adam Liaw

Five new drama series, Adam Liaw’s latest cooking show, and an array of new and returning documentaries are heading to SBS in 2021.

Announced at the network’s upfront today, the content slate for next year is SBS’ largest commission of local content and the most significant drama offering the network has delivered to date.

SBS managing director, James Taylor, said in 2021 the network is hoping to continue connecting to Australians in the vital ways it had this year.

“2020 has demonstrated the distinctive and vital role of SBS as a contemporary, multilingual Australian broadcaster – part of the very fabric of our multicultural Australia – in an extraordinary way,” Taylor said.

“We are reaching and engaging with more Australians than ever before, and next year we will continue to support diverse communities, reflect and celebrate contemporary Australia in all its glorious diversity, bring Australians together and connect with audiences in a way that others can’t.”

In partnership with Screen Australia Indigenous Department and APC Studios, NITV and SBS, drama Copping it Black is amongst the upcoming drama programs. The series comes from the team behind ABC crime drama Mystery Road, following the story of detective Toni Alma chasing a killer and entering the world of the global art market.

Four-part original series, New Gold Mountain, has been named SBS’ ‘most ambitious drama series yet’ and features a cast of Mulan and Dead Lucky’s Yoson An, Vikings’ Alyssa Sutherland, True Detective’s Christopher James Baker, The Code’s Dan Spielman and new talent Mabel Li.

The drama slate also includes female-fronted The Unusual Suspects.

Reinforcing its commitment to diverse Australian stories, SBS’ Digital Originals for next year will include comedy, Iggy & Ace, and dramatic coming of age story, The Tailings. The Digital Originals program, in partnership with Screen Australia and NITV, has also been extended for another three years.

In factual programming, Who Do You Think You Are? will be returning, following Uncle Jack Charles and Celia Pacquola amongst its list of featured Australians. Australia in Colour and Every Family Has A Secret will also be coming back in 2021.

Another ten documentaries will air in 2021. Pacquola will also be the host of new documentary series Australia vs Anxiety. Other factual programs include Strong Female Lead, which studies the gender politics during Julia Gillard’s term as Prime Minister, The Bowraville Murders, and Australia’s Health Revolution with Michael Mosley.

Jay Laga’aia will host a three-part program, Lost for Words, which looks at Australia’s low adult literacy rates. Investigative journalist, Jess Hill will host domestic abuse study, See What You Made Me Do.

The upcoming What Does Australia Think About? will follow on from this year’s program, Is Australia Racist?.

Adam Liaw’s new program, The Cook Up with Adam Liaw, will air every weeknight at 7pm on SBS Food, amounting to 200 total episodes. Food programming will also include A Girl’s Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Wild Cooking, A Middle East Feast with Shane Delia, Strait to The Plate and returning series Cook Like an Italian with Silvia Colloca, Asia Unplated with Diana Chan, and Australia’s Food Bowl with Stefano de Pieri.

In 2021, SBS will also be the home of a number of sports events. The Tour de France will return (alongside Guillaume Brahimi’s Plat du Tour) after SBS secured the broadcast rights for a further ten years until 2030.

SBS will also broadcast UCI Road World Championships, the International Champion’s Cup, the US Open Finals, the NBL, a number of matches of the NBA and WNBA leagues, the ISU Figure Skating, FIG Gymnastics, and the Dakar Rally.

SBS will also continue to broadcast Eurovision and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in 2021.

SBS director of TV and online content, Marshall Heald, looked ahead to the new year with confidence.

“2021 is set to be a bumper year across the network, with a record number of local dramas, documentaries and acquired programs that will surprise, challenge and inspire audiences,” Heald said.

“We scour the globe, and the country, for unique stories in languages, genres and formats that will connect Australians with the world around them and with each other. Now, more than ever, we want to continue championing the issues and communities not often seen or heard.”

SBS On Demand’s multilingual experience, which provided users with the ability to view curated programs in Arabic and Simplified Chinese, will be expanded to include Hindi, Korean and Vietnamese in 2021.

“As a non-English speaking household, this is brilliant,” said Octavio Martinez, Wavemaker director, investment and activation. “Finding content that keeps us connected to our mother tongue takes priority with our media consumption and is a tool that we use to share this connection with our kids to ensure they are aware of where they come and acts as a bridge between cultural and generational gaps.”

New titles to SBS On Demand include The Sister, Shadowplay, Bloodlands and Romulus. New seasons of The Handmaid’s Tale, War of the Worlds and Why Women Kill will also hit the platform.

Martinez commented on the new line-up: “Last year they talked about an inclusive content strategy for 2020 and they definitely delivered on that and are very reflective of modern Australia. I expect the same for 2021. It’s clear that some of the content that didn’t see the light in 2020 will get a run in 2021.”

The SBS media team will be releasing a series of thought leadership studies to provide marketers with insights into the attitudes of Australians.

“Global and national events in 2020 have seen SBS’s role become more critical and our offering even more distinctive, making our unique media sales proposition more compelling,” Sadler said.

“We’ll release the first study in our thought leadership series later this month with ‘What it Means to be an Australian’ examining Australia’s national identity, values and hopes for the future and the implications for advertising and brands, and next year ‘The Power of In-Language’ will explore the benefits of connecting with people through advertising in their first language. These, along with other studies we’ll release throughout the year, will reinforce the unique role SBS plays in reaching an audience that others can’t, and goes to the heart of SBS’s commercial power of purpose.

“We’ll continue to lead the BVOD streaming category with our superior user experience on SBS On Demand. New technology enhancements, including partnering with TEG Analytics and ADOBE, and the introduction of in-language targeting, will allow advertisers to more effectively reach and connect with audiences.

“With marketing budgets under more pressure than ever, including SBS in your media schedule can be a small step to making a big difference for clients. In what we call the SBS Butterfly Effect, we can demonstrate that by moving 10% of a client’s TV advertising budget to SBS, the overall TV campaign cost can be reduced by 30%. That’s the commercial benefit of a hard to reach audience.”


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