SBS2 is about to get yet another revamp, with content from foreign-owned commercial media outlet Vice (whose shareholders include Rupert Murdoch) to take pride of place on the multicultural broadcaster.
Since it launched in 2009, SBS2 has gone through a few iterations. Originally intended to focus on Asia-Pacific broadcasting, it was revamped in 2013 with a focus on youth audiences. Today, it still technically prioritises this, with youth-focused current affairs show The Feed being its most high-profile offering. But its schedule during the day is mostly filled with international news.
But soon the spectrum will be used for a new channel, whose name has yet to be announced, which will feature content from Vice’s Viceland channel.
The licensing agreement was one of several announced by Vice founder Shane Smith at the Cannes Lions advertising festival overnight, and locally by SBS and Vice Australia. The channel will be “owned and operated by SBS”, the announcement said, which presumably means SBS will choose what content will air on it.
Viceland was launched by Vice in America early this year, and the indie publisher has been aggressively partnering with broadcasters around the world to spread its programs. It aims to be in 44 countries this year, which Smith said would make it “the fastest growing television network in history”.
News Corporation has a 5% stake in Vice, and in some territories Viceland has launched with broadcasters also part-owned by News Corp. In Australia, though, it’s gone with the multicultural public broadcaster.
SBS’ managing director Michael Ebeid in a media release:
“Exploring diversity through culture is at the heart of SBS’s purpose and we are excited to be partnering with VICE to bring some of the best available content from across the world, never before seen in Australia, in documentary, journalism and inspiring entertainment, free to all Australians on SBS channels and platforms,
Vice‘s Australian New Zealand MD said the “unique partnership” would “catapult VICE further into the consciousness of young Australians”.
Crikey put questions about the new channel’s operation to both SBS and Vice Australia this morning, but both said they weren’t ready to release more details.
SBS2 hasn’t had a great year ratings-wise, says media analyst Steve Allen. It can be hard for it to carve out a brand proposition in people’s minds. “They’ve got content that should rate better than it does, but they need constant reminders to swing audience numbers over,” he told Crikey. “Certainly with a social brand like Vice — a global, well-known brand — that’s a very good hook.
“I think SBS is being very strategic about this. It’ll give it a boost, and it should.”
In the ratings year to June 16, SBS2 had a ratings share of 1% — about a fifth of the ratings of SBS’ main channel (which had a 4.7% share), and only slightly ahead of SBS’ Food Network, which launched in November last year and had a year-to-date ratings share of 0.9%. The Food Network operates with licensed content from American food broadcaster Scripps Networks Interactive, and according to a Senate estimates answer supplied by SBS is operated with only three people. It doesn’t appear the SBS2 channel will be exactly the same, as the spectrum will air a mix of content from both Vice and SBS (The Feed is remaining on the channel).
Vice — whose valuation has, at times, ballooned to $4.5 billion — has enjoyed great interest from institutional investors, and huge growth, for extensively taking advantage of reader and advertiser interest in online video content. Its young target demographic — attracted by Vice’s edgy, gonzo-style video news products — is highly sought-after by advertisers.
Its release this morning boasted of Vice‘s “hundreds of hours of original programming, including Gaycation (with Ellen Page and Ian Daniel), Huang’s World (with Eddie Huang), Noisey (with Zach Goldbaum), F*ck, That’s Delicious (with Action Bronson), Weediquette (with Krishna Andavolu), Balls Deep (with Thomas Morton) and many more”.