So how do 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine meet the SBS Charter?

SBS boss answers an oft-asked question about US content fitting with its multicultural Charter.


It’s a question many have asked before, and yesterday Senator Ludlam put it to SBS Managing Director Michael Ebeid during a Senate Estimates committee:

How do US shows like 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine-Nine fit the SBS Charter?

Playing US sitcoms, that are widely covered by commercial and subscription broadcasters, seems an ill-fit with the Charter that requires diversity.

But Ebeid explained they can cross-promote local content and drive advertising profits into producing Australian product.

“Sometimes it’s not linked at all to Charter, and we use that to attract slightly different audiences… or a younger audience to be able to cross-promote our other content like Go Back to Where You Came From or Struggle Street. Those more-broader, Entertainment shows,” he said.

Chief Content Officer Helen Kellie said SBS weighed up the cost to buy content versus what it may attract in advertising revenue, against Charter impact.

“Most of our acquired content we make a profit on, and that profit enables us to make more commissioned content,” she said.

“To commission a show costs you ten times the amount to buy a show.”

“We know that we are an under-funded organisation and we have been for a long time,” Ebeid continued. “We would love to be able to commission more content,” said Ebeid, before acknowledging a funding boost under the Labor government.

“We do roughly buy about 80% of our schedule and make about 15%. I would love to increase that.

“The ABC and SBS doesn’t have content quotas, Seven, Nine and TEN do. I’ve always argued I’d love to have a quote but of course that would need to be funded.”

SBS was also questioned on its commitment to football, with former Communications Minister Stephen Conroy raising future plans for FIFA World Cup, Tour de France and A-League.

Ebeid explained SBS has the rights to FIFA World Cup until 2022 but could not rule out foregoing them if funding continued to evaporate.

“I can’t say to you it could never happen. What I am saying to you is we are 100% committed to football. I think football is incredibly important for SBS for our brand.

“It’s part of our heritage as an organisation. It would be something that would have to be catastrophic to change that.”

Rights to UEFA Champions League have expired and SBS is bidding competitively to retain it.

“We don’t plan on losing it now if we can help it,” he said.

But he would be drawn on discussions to on-sell A-League with commercial networks.

“It’s completely confidential. I have nothing to report on that at the moment.”

Senator Conroy advised he knew discussions were underway with commercial broadcasters.

“We would be breaking (FFA) agreements by talking about it,” Ebeid replied.

9 Responses

  1. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, 30 Rock and Community all include more racial diversity than most of the comedy that airs on Australian commercial TV in primetime. And the impact of seeing faces on screen that look like you shouldn’t be underestimated.

  2. Whats with all the hate for 30 Rock and Brooklyn 99? Don’t you people like watching scripted quality TV that is unavailable on Free to Air TV because FTA commercial TV is now roadblocked by “Reality” singing/cooking/dancing/dating, lame game shows and other cheap observational formats?

    And SBS have televised other stuff such as Mad Men, Vikings, Parks & Recreation, Community, Lost Girl – all of it worthy and interesting stuff that otherwise would be unavailable to some as its locked up on Pay TV. Heaven forbid that someone who actually enjoys these shows having the option to watch them!

    I would also like the SBS charter re-written to make part of SBS free to pick up US/Canadian and UK content and televise it without screwing around with it like the current commercial FTA networks do.

  3. So 30 Rock and Brooklyn Nine Nine meet the SBS charter by not meeting the charter, generating a tiny amount of money on secondary channel with a 0.8% evening share, that goes towards making other shows that don’t meet the charter. You can also add Lost Girl, Mad Men, Geeks, Scandinavian Sex docos, various Ninja shows, and lots of others to that list. They are simply cheap nonexclusive rights available on the global market that SBS bought to fill holes in the failed SBS2’s schedule. And some of the money has gone to competing with Foxtel for fun right to Vikings and Masters of Sex, US cable dramas targeting the White AB demographic.

    The solution is to stop pretending, just scrap the charter and create a one that is actually achievable and befits a Soccer/Sex Broadcasting Service targeted at inner city professionals.

    1. SBS could be a lot more relevant and meaningful if they didn’t have shows like this and they operated one main channel. The funding that goes into propping up SBS 2 could be redirected into producing more local charter relevant shows.

  4. So, basically, they’re like a loss-leader in retail – they get punters in, in the hope that they’ll stick around and see more ads.

    Anyone still under the illusion that SBS isn’t a commercial network?

  5. If SBS buys 80% and makes 15% what about the other 5%? Test pattern? Ads? But seriously I am I watch the obvious ratings grab shows elsewhere but they have no place on SBS. They are too old of eps for anyone to be excited about. SBS should concentrate on what they do best. They may make income that can be put into quality local productions but so should Channel 7, 9 and 10 on all the reality pap that theyve been putting out for years. Any we know they just don’t.

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