2018-19 marked a year of significant evolutionary change for SBS’s trusted News and Current Affairs portfolio. Ongoing digital investment has delivered audience growth, while TV programs retained strong viewership.
Enhancements to SBS’s News and Current Affairs offering, including a focus on its digital platforms and more distinctive content, delivered greater audience engagement in 2018-19.
This has come during a period of major local and global news events, which SBS covered with the depth, accuracy and balance for which it is renowned, ensuring the organisation maintains high levels of trust with the Australian public.
Producing 600 hours of news and current affairs television in 2018-19, SBS journalists brought Australians comprehensive coverage of the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terror attacks, the Philippines typhoon, Brexit negotiations and the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019TM, to name just a few key moments. Domestically, reporting of Federal politics dominated, with a change in Prime Minister and a Federal Election.
Inspirational stories of multicultural and Indigenous Australia remain at the core of SBS’s editorial priorities across all News and Current Affairs platforms. Increased collaboration with SBS Radio’s in-language programs has proved vital in delivering significant exclusive news coverage, such as the Afghani athletes asylum bid after the Invictus Games.
The quality of SBS’s reporting earned recognition and numerous awards, with The Feed’s Laura Murphy-Oates winning three Young Walkley Awards in 2018, including Young Australian Journalist of the Year, and a further award in 2019 – the Walkley Young Australian Journalist Award for Public Service Journalism, while Patrick Abboud was awarded the Kennedy Award for Outstanding Nightly TV Current Affairs. Dateline’s report on “Myanmar’s Killing Fields” secured local and international recognition, winning the coveted Documentary Award at the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, the 2018 Lowy Institute Media Award and the Current Affairs award at the BAFTA TV Awards 2019.
SBS World News
SBS World News connected with even more Australians in 2018-19, reflecting the quality of SBS’s cross-platform coverage of major national and international stories, events and issues.
It was a significant 12 months politically, with the Federal Election providing SBS News the opportunity to deliver more distinctive content than ever before. Reporting explained the voting process for new voters and highlighted key issues during the campaign period, acknowledging the concerns of migrant communities and voters in regional areas. The ‘Australia Street’ digital series was an ambitious project giving a voice to everyday Australians from a broad range of backgrounds to express their concerns about politics, politicians and the issues that really matter to them. For the first time, SBS’s election explainers were also produced in multiple languages, enhancing the ability of multilingual audiences to engage in the democratic process.
SBS’s commitment to bringing Australians comprehensive international news coverage on SBS World News continued, including in-depth reporting of the Christchurch and Sri Lanka terror attacks.
Journalists travelled to numerous countries in the region and beyond, including India, Thailand, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Pacific Islands and Israel, as well as France for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019TM, with SBS News providing an Australian perspective on major events for local audiences.
Television ratings for SBS World News were slightly down on the previous year, with the exception of the weekend bulletins which remained level. Digital audience growth continued at a rapid pace with unique visitors up more than 30 per cent, page views up 80 per cent, and 100 per cent growth in SBS News video chapter views on SBS On Demand.
Social media engagement was also impressive with more than 1.4 million Facebook followers and 400 million video views – triple the figure for the year prior.
In 2018-19, The Feed underwent a complete rebrand, including a new format to adapt to shifting industry dynamics and viewing habits. Television audiences continue to decline, particularly among younger demographics, presenting challenges.
Moving to a weekly one-hour format offered better storytelling capabilities, while offering flexibility and boosting capacity to publish reactive comedy and analysis on digital platforms throughout the week.
The new TV format is rating around 10 per cent higher in the Thursday night timeslot, with The Feed regularly featuring in the top 10 most watched programs on SBS On Demand.
The Feed has seen significant growth on digital platforms with more than five times the number of unique viewers to the website and video chapter views up 2,000 per cent since changes were implemented. YouTube subscribers have more than doubled, with 100 million minutes of The Feed content consumed on the platform. Despite an increasingly challenging environment for publishers, The Feed has managed to increase its subscriber base across the year and hold its video views fairly steady.
Patrick Abboud's interview with Academy Award winner Rami Malek, which was partially conducted in Arabic, was a standout success, securing 15 million views. The Feed also produced a number of stand-alone documentaries, including Marc Fennell's ’Sex in Japan: Dying for Company’, which was amongst the highest watched shows on SBS VICELAND in 2018.
The Feed won seven major awards including Walkley Awards, a Kennedy, an Australian Cinematographers Society award for camera work and a UN Day Media Award.
Where Are You Really From? – Season 2
What does it mean to have your identity as an Australian constantly questioned? To be asked, not just where you're from, but where you're really from? The second season of the SBS-produced documentary series, Where Are You Really From? premiered in June 2019, tackling these questions. Reaching an audience of 700,000 Australians, it explored the complex issues of cultural heritage and identity as well as assumptions around what it means to be Australian.
Over four episodes, Michael Hing met with migrant communities in Western Australia, South Australia, Far North Queensland and the suburbs of Western Sydney, testing perceptions of Australian identity and highlighting the ways in which cultural expectations and stereotypes can impact people.
“We are a nation, of so many colours, so many races that make this country.”
– Alep Mydie, The Imam of Katanning, WA, Where Are You Really From?
In 2018-19 Insight informed and intrigued audiences with sometimes taboo and always fascinating topics, averaging a combined weekly audience of 340,000 in the past 12 months.
Insight’s best performing episode, ‘DNA Surprises’, averaged more than 500,000 viewers, and several episodes during the year secured a combined audience of more than 400,000 viewers, including ‘Cost of Living Pressures’ and ‘Weight Loss Surgery’.
SBS On Demand views grew by nearly 60 per cent, while the top performing episodes online, ‘Beating Anxiety’, ‘Dating Over 60’ and ‘Overcoming Loneliness’, surpassed this to sit within the top five performing News and Current Affairs programs on the platform.
In October 2018, Insight aligned with the SBS network show, Child Genius to produce a highly rated program ‘Gifted’, which looked at how the Australian education system treats gifted children.
Insight’s online presence grew, driven by unique short-form videos, including one-on-one interviews conducted by Jenny Brockie. Unique views more than doubled and video chapter views were up 300 per cent in 2018-19.
Dateline continues to perform well in a competitive timeslot, focusing on compelling and important global stories. Against industry trends, the program has increased audiences in the 25-54 demographic in 2018-19.
Dateline delved into major news events such as Brexit and the Christchurch terror attack, while also bringing lesser known stories to Australian audiences.
The top performing episodes for 2018-19 included, ‘Hong Kong’s Crazy Rich and Mega Poor’ reported by Marc Fennell, with nearly 330,000 viewers, ‘Evil in Paradise’ about sex tourism in the Dominican Republic, which was watched by an audience of 310,000, and ‘Losing Greg: A Dementia Journey’, the personal story of an Australian battling early onset dementia and his experience of alternative care options in Denmark, which attracted 307,000 viewers.
In March 2019, as part of the team’s new rapid response strategy, Dateline broadcast a long-form breaking news story, ‘New Zealand’s Darkest Day’, just four days after the Christchurch terror attack.
Achieving both local and international recognition, Dateline won some of journalism’s most prestigious awards during 2018-19. Evan Williams’ investigation into the mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar, ‘Myanmar’s Killing Fields’, a co-production with PBS and Channel 4, won the Walkley Documentary Award, the Lowy Institute Journalism Award and a BAFTA.
Dean Cornish’s story ‘Japan’s Cheerleading Grannies’ took out a UN Media Award, and Calliste Weitenberg’s ‘India’s Hospital Train’ was awarded a silver medal at the New York Festival.
Under a new Current Affairs digital team, Dateline has broadened its commissioning strategy beyond television to create digital exclusives, including daily stand-alone articles and videos. The digital team has launched a new video series ‘I Was There’, featuring intimate interviews with people who witnessed life changing world events.
The new Dateline website has delivered 35 per cent growth in unique visitors and a threefold rise in video chapter views.
SBS WorldWatch broadcasts up to 20 hours of news each day on SBS and SBS VICELAND, airing 47 international news bulletins, including nine English news bulletins and 38 bulletins in languages other than English (LOTE), from 42 broadcasters around the world.
WorldWatch caters to the individual language and cultural needs of Australia’s diverse multicultural and multilingual communities, providing a unique and regular news service from the homeland of many Australian citizens and visitors, in their own language.
WorldWatch also offers an unrivalled perspective on world events from international news networks in English, including BBC, France 24, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, PBS NewsHour, China Global Television Network (CGTN), NHK and, from July 2019, ABC America’s World News Tonight.
All 38 LOTE bulletins and most English bulletins are also available on SBS On Demand for viewing on any device, for seven days after transmission.
SBS maintains significant program and content supply relationships with overseas broadcasters for its WorldWatch news services.
Small Business Secrets
Small Business Secrets concluded as a standalone program after five successful seasons, but continues to deliver inspirational and informative stories on multicultural and Indigenous entrepreneurs and enterprises each Saturday on SBS World News.
SBS broadcast a number of compilation episodes throughout the year, including one focused on Indigenous small businesses to coincide with NAIDOC Week.
The stories remain particularly appealing to educators, aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners facing challenges, as well as those with a keen interest in the business sector. This is highlighted by Screen Rights data which reveals the content continues to sell strongly through its channels. Extending the series’ impact, SBS Learn educational resources continue to support teachers of commerce, business and economics subjects. Small Business Secrets content is also supplied to SBS Radio for weekly in-language broadcast, and radio features are produced on request.