SBS unveils plans for what Michael Ebeid says will be the broadcaster’s ‘boldest, most distinctive year yet’

SBS has unveiled its programming slate for 2017 in what CEO and managing director Michael Ebeid has said will be the public broadcaster’s “boldest, most distinctive year yet”.

At the heart of the announcement is today’s switch-on of SBS Viceland at 4:00pm, which sees SBS2 favourites such as The Feed feature alongside imported shows such as Viceland’s Ellen Page and Ian Daniel’s Emmy-nominated exploration of LGBTQI cultures around the world in Gaycation.

viceland tv channel

Speaking to Mumbrella on the sideline of today’s event, Jay Rosenstock, Viceland international president, said Australia was also a top market they wanted to launch the TV brand into.

“We’ve been in Australia as a company for a long period of time, it’s a top market for us. It’s not just the English language, it’s the sensibility of the Australian youth is quite strong and really for us it’s a great place to create content and take that around the world as well as deliver our international content into,” he said.

“As we looked to launch Viceland a year and a half ago, Australia was one of the top five or six markets we wanted to launch into, so we’re very excited to be here.”

Rosenstock said Viceland wants to produce content in Australia with SBS to share across the international Viceland network.

On how that will work, SBS director of TV and online content, Marshall Heald, said: “If content is to be exported overseas, it will be a co-production model to work out what works best for us locally and what works best for Vice across their international markets.

On choosing SBS, Rosenstock said: “It’s a shared sensibility, a real focus on multicultural, next-generation content that is telling stories that aren’t told on a lot of different platforms. When we met the SBS team it was a shared vision.”


The rest of the programming slate has seen SBS push its diversity credentials with two new local commissioned dramas celebrating diverse faces.

Speaking to the room of media buyers, Michael Ebeid said: “Today we’re excited to be sharing with you our plans for 2017 and share with you our vision for SBS to be the most diverse, exciting and relevant media organisation in Australia.

Michael Ebeid:

Michael Ebeid: SBS is more influential than ever before

“With the advent of Brexit, Trump and on our own shores the resurgence of One Nation, there is a growing connection between economic disadvantage and racially-motivated resentment, fear and uncertainty. That can only be countered by helping all Australians understand each other better.

“Because SBS has unique insights and connections into communities and very hard-to-reach audiences, it means that, more than ever before, we’re more influential, particularly as our nation’s cultural complexity increases.

“One of the great things that have come out of our industry this year is a more prominent national discussion around the need for greater diversity and what role the media can, and should, play in unifying people rather than exacerbating views that create disharmony and division.”

New drama includes Sunshine, which will explore the world of South Sudanese refugees in Melbourne, following the story of a young basketball star forced to fight for his innocence after being accused of an assault, and Safe Harbour, which is a psychological thriller about a group of friends whose yacht holiday alters their lives forever after crossing paths with a raft overloaded with asylum seekers when sailing around Australia.

These new drama series are joined by season two of Benjamin Law’s The Family Law.

Cast of The Family Law

Cast of The Family Law

The public broadcaster also unveiled 12 factual programs and documentaries with I’m Not Racist, But… leading the charge in February by tackling racism with three commissioned documentaries using different storytelling techniques to expose and examine intolerance in Australia.

Later in 2017, an SBS adaption of BBC format Filthy Rich and Homeless will give audiences a perspective on what life lis like for this country’s homeless population while one of the most controversial shows of 2015 Struggle Street will return with a second season.

SBS will also introduce two new formats with Look Me In The Eye, a new social experiment based on the proven counselling technique of non-verbal communication and dating show, Undressed.


SBS dating show Undressed

Commissioned documentaries include The Mosque, Testing Teachers, A Tale of Two Weddings, Hidden History of Our Suburbs and the return of Shaun Micallef’s Stairway to Heaven for a second season.

International drama content includes Knightfall, Medici: Masters of Florence, Deutschland 83 and The Night Manager as well as the return of Faro, Vikings and Bosch.

The programming slate also includes Family Rules, giving Australians insight into modern Indigenous family life.

SBS’s Food Network will launch The Chefs’ Line, a new format for weeknights at 6:00pm designed to build audiences ahead of SBS’s news bulletin at 6:30pm.

The 13-week series will explore the heritage, history and diversity that drives Australia’s restaurant culture with home cooks challenging chefs.

Maeve O’Meara will return with two series – Food Safari Earth and Food Safari Water – while Matthew Evans returns in a new seasons of Gourmet Farmer, Adam Liaw explores his heritage in Destination Flavour Singapore and a glimpse at life away from his restaurants in Shane Delia’s Recipe for Life.


The Food Network is also welcoming Masterchef stars Andy Allen and Ben Melbourne to the line-up with Andy & Ben Eat Australia, the channel’s first foray into first-run local content.

SBS will also once again broadcast the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Eurovision Song Contest.

The public broadcaster will also offer live sporting moments including the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, the 2017 Confederations Cup and the Tour de France.

Red Planet data play

SBS also unveiled its data play, partnering with Qantas’ data marketing business Red Planet.


The partnership follows on from SBS introducing an iOS login requirement for SBS On Demand, with the login pulling audience data.

Andrew Cook, SBS Media director of sales, told the room: “In September we introduced a login for all iOS Demand users to gain access to SBS content.

“We already have close to 200,000 registered iOS users who have given us their name, date of birth, email and gender, and from December both android and desktop will also require a log-in which means we will start to gain data insights from close to 80% of all video streams by the end of this year.

“Registration will provide users an even better curated experience and, eventually, we will be able to provide advertisers with better segmented information about our users.

“Whilst we build our database and knowledge of users we feel there is something we can do to help provide a bridge of information until we reach our data goals. We have decided to partner with Red Planet, the Qantas Loyalty owned customer insights and marketing company, to better understand our on-demand audiences.”

Cook said the Red Planet partnership with provide SBS with “independent verification of our desktop audience, giving us insights across demographics, behaviours, attitudes, life stages and geography”

“The aim of this partnership is to help our clients better understand our audiences with another layer of insight,” he said.

Diversity Works Challenge

The SBS upfronts also saw Cook unveil the network’s Diversity Works Challenge which is set to launch on Australia Day, January 26, 2017.

The initiative calls on Australia’s creative minds to develop an advertising campaign that demonstrates the diversity of today’s Australia.

Cook said: “Back in 2012 you might recall we launched the trade tagline ‘Diversity Works’ and at SBS we have been telling clients that Australia is changing and Australian media isn’t adapting fast enough to that change.

“We’ve been asking our clients and agencies to think with diversity and include SBS in their media plans as we reflect the new Australia. We believe thinking with diversity, works.

Cook questioned the need to celebrate when diversity is used in campaigns.

Andrew Cook:

Andrew Cook: The ad industry has been slow to implement diversity through advertising campaigns

“We’re now starting to see advertisers use diversity in their ad campaigns, which is great. What’s interesting is there is almost a cause for celebration when somebody uses diversity in their campaigns.

“Why should this use of diversity be highlighted in the trade when the fact is that the use of diversity should be an acceptable, normal part of how advertisers talk to Australians.

“I believe the ad industry has been slow to implement diversity through advertising campaigns. SBS wants to speed up thinking about diversity by issuing a Diversity Challenge for all national clients to take part in.”

The winner of the challenge will receive $1 million in free advertising airtime across SBS television and digital assets. 


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