By guest blogger Dan Barrett, Televised Revolution
Today SBS announced the rebrand of their digital multichannel SBS2. Starting April 1, SBS2 wil now target younger audiences aged 16-39 with a direct focus on “thinking 30-somethings”. SBS are billing SBS2 as a “place to share their passion for emerging cultural ideas and experiences with diverse content from around the world that is edgy, adventurous and fun, and connects audiences with the world”. While yes, that is a lot of “world”, it also sounds like SBS are onto a good thing with this rebrand.
SBS2 has been aimless. Serving more as an extension of the primary SBS channel rather than a service with its own sense of purpose, SBS2 has largely diluted the SBS brand with viewers torn not just between viewing content on SBS or other channels, but between the two similar SBS TV offerings. By providing this focus on “thinking” youth viewers, SBS are not just creating a distinct focus for their channel, but are also catering to an audience that is not being catered to all that well by existing networks. The youth audience that Go! cater towards are those who seem perpetually aged 16 years-old, while Ten’s three channels don’t quite have a clear focus on any specific audience.
In chasing this audience, like any traditional broadcaster, SBS have a major hurdle to overcome: The Internet. 16-39 year-olds are, by and large, a connected audience. Furthermore, a focus on a “thinking audience” of viewers in that age group would typically mean an audience who are university educated. They are seeking an audience for of whom have had a long relationship with online access – one that has matured and one that has established related behaviours. This is an audience of whom are dissatisfied with traditional broadcast television and have grown up with illegal downloads and DVD’s as a core part of their viewing habits. Furthermore, it is an audience who are mobile and spend less time at home. This is a hard to reach audience.
“SBS 2 will be a channel which is fun and inclusive and all about giving our younger audiences content in the fast-paced way they want it, when they want it and on a device they choose to view it.” – Michael Ebeid, SBS Managing Director
But SBS are in a better position than most to be able to succeed with this difficult demographic. Working in their favour is that the content that viewers expect from SBS is material that is harder to find from sources beyond SBS. All of the international content broadcast by the commercial channels in Australia can quite easily be found on torrents online, purchased through vendors like iTunes, viewed on Foxtel, or purchased on DVD. The content is hardly exclusive. Yes, the audience are connected and more than willing to source their content from beyond the bunny ears, but fortunately for SBS, their content is generally hard to source elsewhere. SBS can cultivate an audience that go to SBS to explore and discover new content. SBS are less a broadcaster of content and a curator of content.One of the most impressive aspects of today’s SBS2 rebranding announcement has been the integration of their catch-up platform SBS On Demand into the new-look service. In an effort to successfully implement a synergy across SBS2 and On Demand, SBS have recognised that the youth audience they’re courting don’t consume television in the traditional manner. Instead, acknowledging the non-linear binge-consuming way that youth audiences watch television nowadays, SBS have unveiled their Back 2 Back strategy which will provide every episode of a show online as soon as the first episode has premiered on TV. Three series will be made available initially under Back 2 Back, with more to follow.
SBS’s Director of TV and Online Content Tony Iffland has embraced this new programming strategy “We’re delighted to bring Back 2 Back to our audiences meaning they can watch all the episodes of a new series via SBS On Demand. We know our audiences don’t necessarily want to wait eight weeks or more to make an appointment to-view a series and now they don’t have to. They can go straight to SBS On Demand and watch all the episodes back-to-back or whenever they want.”
Of course, all of this is all very good and well, but if the content on SBS 2 doesn’t interest the viewers, the rebranding strategy simply is not going to fly. Based on today’s announcement, SBS2 is heading in the right direction. While there is nothing particularly outstanding at launch, there’s certainly a number of shows of interest. At launch SBS2 are offering two UK series starring Russell Tovey (Threesome and Him & Her), season 7 of Skins, the Eddie Izzard led Canadian series Bullet In The Face, Belgian hidden camera comedy series Benidorm Bastards, and Russell Howard’s Good News. There are also a number of doco’s and factual series on the schedule which seem to be a deliberate attempt to embrace extreme blokey reality adventure shows, among other hip subject matter like advertising/marketing: Don’t Tell My Mother, Be Your Own Boss, The Pitch, and Warrior Road Trip.
An interesting curiosity on the schedule is Community. Previously broadcast on Go!, Community will now be airing on SBS2 nightly. While there is certainly a loyal audience for the show, it’s cool factor has begun to wane of late with the current season from the US following the departure of showrunner and creator Dan Harmon. With much of SBS2′s desired audience torrenting the show as soon as it airs, while also discussing how badly the new season of the show sucks (it really does), this feels like less of a coup programming choice than it may have been even just a few months ago when the rights to the show were likely purchased.
From the outset, SBS2 seems like a clever strategy. It appears well thought out with both its on-air content and the integration of SBS On Demand and has quite a bit to offer. We’re yet to see a full schedule for the new-look SBS2 but it’s promising.
About the Author
Dan Barrett spends far too much time talking about TV. When he isn’t editing the Televised Revolution website, he hosts the TV Rev podcast. When he isn’t doing that, Dan can also be heard on the Televised Revolution: In Review podcast where he reviews television. He can be found on the couch with excessive regularity.