SBS upfronts: Spotlight on Australian drama and women's sport

Josh McDonnell
By Josh McDonnell | 20 November 2018

Drama, women's sport and further on demand content lead the charge for SBS in 2019, as revealed at its annual upfront event today in Sydney.

In what newly appointed SBS managing director James Taylor called a "cluttered market", the government-backed broadcaster will look to create a "genuine point of difference" with its content slate in 2019.

The network will achieve this in 2019 through a list of new programmes, including two new commissioned Australian drama series, currently in production.

SBS also revealed a preview of its new brand positioning – 'SBS, a world of difference', which builds on past taglines including – ‘Bringing the world back home’; ‘The world is an amazing place’ and ‘Six billion stories and counting’.

“As our sector continues to experience unprecedented change, SBS has embraced the opportunities this presents, and today we are proud to be connecting with more Australians than ever before," Taylor said.

“As we navigate the changing face of modern Australia and the shifting needs of audiences, SBS’s 2019 line-up will continue to exemplify our unique purpose with distinctive multiplatform content relevant to all Australians.”

Drama over reality

Hungry Ghosts is a new four-part Australian drama series produced for SBS by Matchbox Pictures that takes elements of the Japanese and Korean “supernatural thriller” genre to explore the lives of three generations of Vietnamese-Australian families dealing with the aftermath of war.

The Hunt delves into one of the biggest issues of the social media era – cyberbullying. The series explores the lives of four teenagers, their friends, families, teachers and communities during the lead up and aftermath of a nude photo sharing scandal.

Growing upon the success of its subscription video on demand programming, commissioned exclusively for the SBS On Demand platform, the network will create its second in 2019, Robbie Hood. The show follows Robbie, a teenage troublemaker with a heart of gold living in a remote Aboriginal community.

New international drama includes:

Butterflya show about the relationship between separated parents, Vicky and Stephen, and their division in opinion over how to support their gender variant child, Max.

McMafiaInspired by the insider interviews in Misha Glenny’s bestselling book, James Norton and David Strathairn star in a drama that exposes the global network of organised crime.

The New PopeOscar winners Sharon Stone, John Malkovich, and Jude Law team up in this sequel to Paolo Sorrentino's The Young Pope.

ChimericaThe story of a photojournalist who travels to China with the hopes of finding out the identity of the mysterious man was who was photographed standing defiantly in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago.

"We thrive on telling stories that explore complex issues and can have meaningful impact; we look for creative approaches that scare us and concepts that will emotionally connect with audiences," SBS director of TV and online content Marshall Heald said.

“We also want to celebrate the ways in which diversity enriches Australia, so even if we’re grappling with a serious issue, we are optimistic in our approach, and are always looking for the light in the dark.”

Sporting schedule in 2019

Following the ratings success of 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, SBS will continue as the exclusive free-to-air broadcaster of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France from 7 June.

Australians can follow The Matildas in their pursuit of football’s biggest prize with every Matildas match, and the complete finals series, live and in HD as well as daily highlights and analysis shows from the SBS team at home and on the ground in France.

SBS’s commitment to women’s sport continues in 2019 with coverage of the Australian domestic football competition the W-League, and the WNBL Women’s National Basketball League.

SBS will broadcast a multitude of international sport in 2019, including the Tour de France, Premier League, International Figure Skating and Gymnastics and Dakar Rally racing, live and exclusive to free-to-air.

The network has also secured the exclusive free-to-air rights to the French Open for the second time. Live from Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, France, SBS will follow the action every day throughout the 2019 tournament.

Alternative content

The network will also have more documentary series than ever before with SBS stating that "while most other free-to-air TV serves up wall-to-wall reality, SBS will continue to keep it real".

Viceland, the network's youth-focused multichannel will continue to air several popular and cult TV series next year, bringing audiences fast-tracked titles including exclusive free-to-air new seasons of Wellington Paranormal, The Orville, You’re The Worst, and Brooklyn 99.

SBS revealed plans to focus on developing a local content-heavy strategy for the relaunch of its dedicated food channel SBS Food, which took place over the weekend.

The dedicated food channel is less reality and more real food, and features more Australian and global food personalities.

The relaunch follows the end of its long-term agreement with American broadcaster Discovery, which, up until earlier this year, provided exclusive international content from its own dedicated food channel, The Food Network.

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