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.