Programmers Wrap 2012: SBS

SBS Network Programmer Jane Roscoe talks Insight, Eurovision, Who Do You Think You Are?, Go Back To Where You Came from and Mad Men.

Network Programmer Jane Roscoe is very open about what 2012 represents for the multicultural broadcaster: a year in which it must secure a funding increase from the Gillard Government in the May Budget.

Three years ago ABC enjoyed a significant boost in Triennial Funding while SBS was all but ignored. Last year it was forced to cancel a planned drama series, Dusty. There are no new local dramas planned for 2012 and with the window required to take a new drama from page to screen, even with a funding increase it is unlikely to deliver any this year.

But as she explains, it hasn’t prevented SBS from exploring new projects in readiness for good news.

“We’re talking and gathering ideas, we’re hoping to go into production on a couple of them but we’re waiting to see what we can get from the government. Our budgets are very tight at the moment and there are some great ideas out there, but we can’t commit to very much at the moment,” she says.

“Having said that we are doing some development on Danger 5 for a possible second series.”

Danger 5  (pictured) is a 60s-inspired action comedy series with spies and Hitler, evoking a fusion of James Bond and the Thunderbirds. It begins at the end of the month.

SBS, known for its cult hits, hasn’t confirmed more Housos for favourite comic Paul Fenech yet either.

“We haven’t made a decision on where we’ll go with that, but these things are all in the mix,” she says.

“Paul’s shows rate very well for us. We played Housos in a different slot (to Swift & Shift Couriers) and it did fairly well. At this point I don’t want to be ruling anything out. We’re just not in a position to say what’s going to be coming up on the Comedy and Drama slate.

“This is the main problem for us as a broadcaster, Drama takes time to develop. Comedy takes time to develop and when you’re pushed for funds it’s very hard to do that. But we certainly don’t want to give up that territory.”

In local Entertainment there is Bollywood Star, a four-part series that searches for an unknown who will go on to win a part in a Bollywood movie.

There are plans for more RocKwiz with Julia Zemiro.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to sign off quite soon on a new RocKwiz. So we’ll have a new series, fingers crossed.

Zemiro also returns for Eurovision with Sam Pang, and will appear in a series of Eurovision programming meeting contestants in Europe.

“Julia will be doing a roadtrip to the contestants along the way in a little campervan. Hopefully that will be a fun lead-up to the big event.”

So far there are no new Skins episodes, but there is always South Park, which Roscoe concedes endured programming delays in 2011.

“It’s a brand that people still associate with us even though you can get it in other places. So it’s still important and we’ll be trying to look after it a little more this year,” she says.

“We’re also looking at doing some pilots in Entertainment, but it’s far too early to say much about this. We’re talking to production companies, taking some pitches and seeing what’s out there,” says Roscoe.

Since moving the late night World News Australia to 10:30pm, SBS now has more primetime programming to play with.

“The big change on SBS ONE is the change to primetime with three hours of entertainment before the News. So it’s about building those nights and developing the schedule,” she says.

One such move sees Insight moved to 8:30pm Tuesdays, followed by Dateline at 9:30pm, creating a News and Current Affairs night.

Insight will be refreshed with a slightly different set-up,” she says.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been able to do with the new schedule, to think differently about our nights.”

Who Do You Think You Are? replays 7:30pm Tuesdays with both UK and Australian episodes. A new series will feature Shaun Micallef, John Wood and Vince Colosimo.

Mondays promise James May’s Man Lab Series 2 and new Man vs Wild episodes. Wednesday nights include wildlife adventures and history docos such as Empire, Civilisation, and East to West.

There are too many documentaries to list but they include Science docos that have big ideas about the universe and the planets.

“They’re high end, cutting edge docos that will air later in the year,” she says.

Inside Nature’s Giants returns with more animal autopsies.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted or while you’re having your dinner. Although it’s probably a bit more palatable because they go out into the wild and there’s a bit more about the animal’s relationship to the environment. It’s not just focused on the autopsies.”

There will be more Coast, a History of Wales and on Fridays expect more Hitler docos.

“We couldn’t have Friday nights without some Hitler. He can still be explored from so many new angles, it’s incredible isn’t it?” she laughs.

“For every person who writes in and says ‘I hate Hitler’ there’s another 10 who write in and say ‘It’s great put on more!’”

SBS will also mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

“If you think there’s a lot of Hitler, there’s an awful lot of Titanic!”

Undoubtedly the 2011 series that returned SBS to form was Go Back To Where You Came From.

SBS has another season planned, but Roscoe is tight-lipped on the detail.

“The logistics of a show like this are very complicated and whilst there are several options for places and people, until we’ve locked all of that down we can’t make any announcements,” she explains.

“It will be different, we can’t just do the same thing. But what we’ve seen so far is another complex journey and we’re scouting some interesting locations with interesting stories.

“It has been in the mix but we’re not in a position to be able to confirm anything yet.
There will definitely be social media and an Insight forum around it.”

The UK series of The Family, with a family filmed with closed circuit cameras, airs in early April, featuring a Pakistani Family.

“It’s very different to Season One in the UK and probably more similar to the one we made. The UK third season has an African family, but the second season is funny and charming and I think people will enjoy it.”

Will there be a second Australian series?

“Technically it was very challenging and innovative. We hadn’t done anything like it before. It was a very big show, but that’s exactly what we should be doing: taking risks. Sometimes we pull it off and sometimes we don’t but we’ve learned a lot from the series and we definitely want to be in that territory,” she says.

“We’ll definitely be making something big again but I can’t confirm what it is yet.”

Tour de France airs in July.

Food titles remain on Thursdays with more from more Luke Nguyen, Peter Kuruvita and Food Safari.

“So we’re developing our SBS food stars from the work they’ve done already. We’re trying to make sure the Thursday food strand remains strong with commissioned work.”

Heston Blumenthal has a new series, Heston at Home.

“He brings a bit of science and craziness and applies to everyday cooking. Each episode he makes 2 or 3 recipes around one ingredient,” she says.

“It will be like a compendium going through basic ingredients allowing viewers to build up their cookery knowledge across the series.”

In international drama, Mad Men‘s third season begins tomorrow night with double episodes and Boardwalk Empire is coming later in the year.

“We’ve got more of The Killing on SBS TWO, more of The Protectors and we’re keeping our eye out for some new Danish crime,” says Roscoe.

Shameless is back in April.

“It’s a very long series and the critics were saying it just keeps getting better.”

Behind the scenes SBS will welcome a new Director of Television, Tony Iffland following the exit of Matt Campbell in mid 2011.

“We’re very excited. Obviously it’s been a while since Matt left so we’re looking forward to having someone in the corner office. Tony’s very experienced and he’ll bring a while different set of skills to the division.”

So after 7 years, does she herself moving on anytime soon?

“This job still has many challenges and I’m never bored. There’s always something going on, it’s a great job. I look around at other networks and think we might not be getting the biggest ratings every week but we have a very interesting portfolio of content and it’s content I love,” Roscoe insists.

“It would be very hard to move I think. I’ve got enough to keep me busy!”

20 Responses

  1. Agree with those loving Letters & Numbers (and Lily!)
    But apart from that – and the occassional East Asian film – I have all but stopped watching SBS since ABC2 came along. The cult and quirky shows that you used to find on SBS are on Aunty’s sexy, younger sister now [let’s make her an aunt by marriage to avoid any ickiness].

    Until Sam Pang hosts Eurovision by himself (or with Mr Knox) I shall stick with Norton’s BBC coverage.

    @ dark angel: Dubbing the Asterisk films for the youngsters is a great suggestion.

  2. Hopefully they also air the final few episodes of William Shatner’s Weird or What that they missed a few months ago.

    Also, David, I think you should remove Twenty20 Cricket from the SBS tags menu, I don’t think it belongs there.

  3. If SBS is not thrown a financial lifeline they should be be merged with the ABC. If they are they need to commission comedy and drama that is risky and innovative and that taked courage and intelligence. Good luck SBS.

  4. i used to watch sbs at least once a week, but now they have ad breaks in programmes it really puts me off. there are no programmes that appeal to me anyway at the moment other than houso’s which was hilarious. i agree that there are so many foreign language programmes that they could be showing…sbs has lost its identity

  5. In its 30+ years on TV. SBS has never had much love in Canberra when it comes to funding. Cadel Evan’s win in the Tour de France last year will help SBS’s cause a lot but it won’t get them over the line.

    SBS has asked as a bare minimum for extra funding to get rid of the ad breaks in programs.

    And SBS has not used its programs well as it should. Given the worldwide love given to the Spielberg/Jackson Tintin movie of late, people will not even be aware that another French comic book set Asterix and Obelix has had many movies made for it by the French but is totally unknown here. SBS needs to have these movies properly English dubbed not subbed and shown in slots (ie weekends or school holidays) in prime time to get the Tintin movie crownd watching these movies.

    And given that the ABC had a big funding increase of $180 million in 2009 and the commercial stations have had $250 million in licence rebates handed to them in 2010, SBS is way overdue for a big funding increase.

  6. It is SBS’s fault that they have a funding short-fall. they went commercial against the wishes of the public. It didn’t end up working out and now they want a hand out. I really loved SBS but they are so commercial now, not just with programming but general presentation and I think the overall broadcast lacks vision. They spend too much time promoting prime-time and Dymocks, ignoring the wealth of cinema and documentary that they let fizzle out late in the late evening without anyone knowing about it. Its because everything is about money. Oh, and if you discover a show you like on Monday night, be prepared for it to be cut because it doesn’t rate. This sounds like a commercial broadcaster! Well commercial broadcasters don’t get Government funding at all. If you want to learn about how to bring SBS back from the brink, find some old movies people have taped off SBS. Watch the tape and look at the the five minute break. It will be filled with promotions for all kinds of great programming. No loud commercials (They only allowed classy and discrete ads at that stage, it made a big difference to the overall experience, no Go Harvey Go!) and wonderfully created station I.Ds by talented artistic filmmakers and not the ugly CG graphics and entry level CG animation they use now. Find those tapes, they will teach you more than you think. The experience had soul and obvious vision.

  7. So has SBS given up any pretence now of being a ‘multicultural’ broadcaster? There must be hundreds, or thousands, of hours of quality foreign-language TV series (not just dramas but even entertainment shows like Come Dine With Me: Greece which they had last year) which SBS could name its price for as the commercial networks won’t dare buy them. Foreign films on SBS2 are fine but it’s frustrating that SBS seems to be ignoring what could be a gold mine of engaging TV programming. There’s got to be more out there they could be tapping in to instead of Inspector Rex or reruns of Inspector Montalbano

  8. Excellent news about Eurovision, I cant wait to see Julia and Jedward (hopefully) back together again like a couple of naughty kids with a a schoolteacher.

    Danger 5 looks amazing, I saw some clips on youtube and totally looks like its going to be a cult hit.

    And of course Letters and Numbers is the best thing on at 6pm. We need to start a campaign to get Lily Serna the Gold Logie!

    SBS FTW 2012!

  9. I hope they can get more money from the government. The things I like Friday I’m one of the ones that don’t mind Hitler and the British series at 7.30pm as it beats the depressing sexual or other abusers on the ABC at that time. Or whenever I’ve tried watching it in Victoria as I think it’s just us .

    I’ll admit I love Who Do You Think You Are? but I can’t watch it on Tuesday. So I miss it. I also want to watch the science documentaries on SBS2 but they’ve stupidly IMO put it against MythBusters on 7.30pm Monday. Why put two science based shows on at the same time? Why?!? I would watch the documentaries 7.30pm Wednesday instead. Either that or history documentaries. I love both.

    Now for some praise: I love the new science documentaries on Sunday 8.30pm especially if between 8.30-9.30 (or 40) pm. As I often have nothing to watch then. So it’s perfect. Thank you to whoever did that. 🙂

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