The one thing SBS has done this year which has allegedly upset viewers is the introduction of in-program ads, so that there are three or four breaks in a program, depending on length.

The luvvies don’t like it, but not surprisingly they are in the minority. SBS audiences are up this year by a sharpish five per cent or more on 2006.

Viewers don’t on the whole, care that much, with strong numbers for Mythbusters on Monday nights, Inspector Rex (repeats on Thursdays) and Top Gear (Mondays and repeats on Saturday) helping lift viewer numbers, despite these being among the prime programs for advertising.

And advertisers seem to like it, because, as SBS Managing Director, Shaun Brown, told the Senate Estimates hearings last week, ad revenues are “currently tracking ahead of budget”.

He didn’t give a figure — he will supply one to the committee — but he emphasised “We do have an increase in revenue.” Mr Brown said:

It is somewhat more than we had budgeted for. It is overperforming. The question for us is identifying whether that overperformance is due to the introduction of in-program breaks, the general lift in marketing conditions that has occurred in the last year or the lift in ratings that we have had at SBS.

Brown was asked what SBS would do with the extra money, committed as it was to investing in new programming. He said:

We are looking particularly at the local production slate, because that is where the majority of the $10 million that we forecast has gone. Some of it has gone to news. Later this year we will be airing three dramas, and that is unprecedented. They are: The Circuit, Kick and East West 101. We have a number of other dramas in development and the fact that we have this additional funding means that the chances of those also proceeding is greatly enhanced.

We have a major series called Who Do You Think You Are? that is in production. It is a very exciting program, based upon a format in Britain, that investigates the ancestry of various individuals. That plays very strongly to our charter. I think we are really on the verge of delivering an unprecedented volume of Australian productions on SBS.