Programmer’s Wrap 2014: SBS

The FIFA World Cup underpins the entire SBS strategy for the year, says Peter Andrews.

2014-01-26_1943TV Tonight launches its annual Programmer’s Wrap today beginning with its first interview with Peter Andrews as Head of Network Programming for SBS.

Formerly Network Program Manager at TEN Melbourne Andrews joined SBS last August.

Looking across the 2014 calendar, he sees the year for SBS ONE in two halves.

“This year is big year for SBS given that we have the World Cup which is for us the biggest sporting event this year in terms of an international event. To have that fall in that June period is great,” he says.

“For us it divides the year up into two launches, in a way.”

The  FIFA World Cup takes place in Brazil from mid-June to mid-July and will be Live and exclusive to SBS.

“All games will be broadcast live. Games on SBS ONE will all be in HD. Some games will be run live simultaneously on SBS 2 but those ones will not be in HD during the live broadcast.”

There will be eight games in total on SBS2 which will all  be repeated on SBS ONE in HD.

“The games come in Live after midnight so we have an opportunity to keep our primetime schedule in place. And around that we’ll have a World Cup entertainment show that will be an anchor for the primetime schedule.

“Coming out of the World Cup it’s important that we maintain that momentum.

“There will be big, factual commissioned pieces as part of our strategy coming out of the World Cup.”

rebecca-gibneyS6 of Who Do You Think You Are? with Andrew Denton, Rebecca Gibney,  Richard Roxburgh, Amanda Keller, Jacki Weaver, Lisa McCune, Paul McDermott and (Australian of the Year) Adam Goodes will air round the period of the World Cup.

Three-part documentary series, The Great Australian Race Riot by Peter Fitzsimons will reveal our turbulent history of racism, riots and reconciliation, also airing around the same period along with Australia’s Secret Heroes.

“It will brins to life the stories from the grandchildren of veterans and attempt to follow in their footsteps as a living history period.”

SBS is also home to the best of international cycling events, airing mid year.

“Given that the Tour de France (July) is the biggest cycling event in the world, around that we’re splitting up our coverage of the Italian Giro (May) and the Vuelta a Espana from Spain (after the Tour).

Looking more closely at the regular weekly schedule, Andrews says SBS is looking at ‘special event Sundays’.

“In 2014 we’re looking at big idea features and documentaries on Sundays. We kick off with big acquires specials such as Blackout, another run of Plane Crash, then into some pretty significant, commissioned Australian stories. There are 2 over that period Life on Us and Tales of the Unexpected,” he says.

Blackout is a ‘what if?’ scenario in the UK if a counter terrorism took out the whole power grid of London. It’s pretty much a story that follows, in a dramatic sense, the story of London.

“At 7:30 coming out of World News Australia we have a season of documentaries called Lost Worlds. It covers all the major history stuff and there are some fantastic titles. So it’s playing to our core audience on Sunday nights.”

Andrews confirmed Ellen Fanning’s interview series The Observer Effect, which had also screened on Sundays, is not returning.

Amongst its new local factual titles this year is the “provocative 6 part series” Living with the Enemy.

“It looks at the faultline of social cohesion,” says Andrews.

“We’ll be exploring people with diametrically opposed views, who are pretty much on a cultural divide. The show will immerse in the lives of those people.”

Does that mean they will be living together under the one roof, Big Brother style?

“There will be elements of that, but ultimately it wants to look at both sides and delve into a cultural divide. But in terms of its treatment we’re still having a look at how that’s going to come together.”

What’s the Catch? with Gourmet Farmer‘s Matthew Evans reveals the complex truth behind Australia’s seafood, airing in the back half of the year.”

However flagship documentary series Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl, which followed on from Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta, had to be pulled from the schedule this month after claims one of its participants has exaggerated his story about incarceration.

“It’s airing this year and we’re working closely with our production partners. From my point of view when you are going to create bold and distinctive content, you’re going to come up against these hurdles now and then. Because it’s not bold and distinctive if you don’t,” says Andrews.

A third series in the franchise, Once Upon a Time in Carlton, is also due in 2014.

More recently SBS has expanded its slate of international dramas to considerable success. The good news is there’s more of it on the way.

“We looked at what SBS was able to bring in 2013 and what we’re looking at in terms of 2014 is the best of international drama from around the world,” Andrews explains.


Masters of Sex and Vikings are both returning. Rectify goes out soon. The Fall will come to SBS with Gillian Anderson. Orphan Black just launched on SBS 2. We have more Walking Dead ‘slow-tracked.’ The Bridge, Borgen, Lilyhammer, Spies of Warsaw and The Escape Artist are 2 David Tennant pieces and there’s The Returned (SBS 2).

“In terms of international drama I think we’ve got it covered and there’s going to be more.”

Andrews says Thursdays at 9:30 will remain home to some of their best drama titles.

Vikings did really well for us on Thursdays so we’re continuing the premium English-language drama in that timeslot.

“But I’ve alluded to some great properties coming through so we’re looking at potentially opening up another timeslot of that level.”

Foreign-language dramas are on Wednesdays.

“There’s The Bridge, Borgen, Lilyhammer and a couple of others we can’t talk about. There are a lot of foreign language dramas on SBS ONE and clearly in terms of our film proposition we have the best of World Cinema as well.”

2013-08-30_1935Julia Zemiro returns for her  12th season of RocKwiz “sooner than you think. Probably in March.

“We have exciting plans for RocKwiz by the way and it’s 14 episodes commissioned.”

In May SBS favourite Eurovision broadcasts from Denmark.

Another important feature of SBS programming is the Thursday food slate, which is getting a boost.

“We step up Food with our Thursday night food we pretty much want to bring original Australian produced Food for the whole year,” says Andrews.

“We kick off with Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita and on top of that we have Luke Nguyen (France), Shane Delia (Turkey), and a level of Food commissioned series that is a first for SBS in terms of volume. We have a really strong Thursday night in terms of Food and we’re taking it to the next level.”

Also coming in 2014 are SBS 2 titles The Feed, Thursday FC more A-League and the ANZ Championship netball and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras while NITV highlights include In The Frame, Kriol Kitchen and Hard Rock Medical.

And yes, the broadcaster is still hoping to announce a new local drama for the year.

11 Responses

  1. They certainly do have international drama covered – a great selection of ground breaking drama from around the world. It puzzles me why they don’t take their domestic drama cues from these innovative, brave and risky series which challenge conventions and push the boundaries thus making them must-watch TV. It’s time SBS addressed this weakness in their commissioning team.

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