SBS to launch dedicated food channel - helps protect network amid government funding flux

Rachael Micallef
By Rachael Micallef | 30 September 2015
Credit: SBS Food website

SBS is looking to offset funding pressure and competitive challenges through the launch of Australia’s first speciality 24/7 free-toair (FTA) channel focused on food programming.

The as-yet unnamed channel – which will be live on SBS 3 in November - will be SBS’s fourth FTA channel and will expand on its current Thursday night food programming line-up.

SBS managing director, Michael Ebeid, said the channel, which will target a younger, more female-skewed audience than its other channels, SBS, SBS 2 and NITV, will help expand the SBS audience reach and create a new revenue stream for the channel.

“This is about SBS capitalising on something which we do really well,” Ebeid said.

“For us, it's about offering audiences something very distinctive because we do it very differently to the competition on Seven, Nine and Ten and it really is a window into the world’s cultures. But it is also an opportunity for us to leverage commercially the channel - to keep our commercial revenues whole going forward and to be able to continue to invest in Australian content.

“We all know that other revenues are declining and it means that we can look after ourselves a little bit as government funding goes up and down.”

In May this year, a bill to allow SBS to put on more advertising in prime time hours was brought up in parliament but was defeated.

While the food category is a competitive space, SBS chief content officer, Helen Kellie, said the new channel will differentiate itself from other offerings with a focus on exploring culture and travel through food.

“We think there is a gap in the market and extending what SBS can do in food but also providing something different in food to what is available in the Australian market,” Kellie said.

“Our Thursday night food offering is one of our most consistent scale performers in terms of audience and that’s made us think that there is an incremental opportunity here beyond just our core Thursday night.”

SBS has entered into a major output deal with lifestyle content company Scripps Networks Interactive, which will supply the channel with programming across the food category.

It is also not ruling out the possibility of co-production, with the network to build local content for SBS 3 that can also be distributed across the globe.

Kellie said the deal will also provide additional scope for cross-promotion opportunities to grow the network's audience, but noted that its current food programming on its flagship SBS channel will remain.

The channel will also be available on SBS’s catch-up service, SBS On Demand.

While Ebeid remained tight-lipped on advertiser interest, he revealed SBS had been in talks with media agencies, with several likely to sign on for ad spots when the channel is launched.

The launch date, programming and name of the new channel will be unveiled next month.

Did you catch this? As reported in February, SBS and Pacific Magazines said the April edition of well-regarded food magazine Feast was the last as it was no longer financially viable.

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