Last week SBS Director of Television and Online Content Tony Iffland presented his first network slate to media with a mix of local and international drama, comedy, factual, food and documentary.
Key scripted shows included Better Man, Housos,Lilyhammer, and Bullet in the Face.
In his first interview with TV Tonight since joining SBS in April, Iffland indicates there is more original scripted content to come. Following on from a government boost mid-year, the broadcaster is now in discussions on other yet-to-be-announced projects.
“With our funding outcome we can now have those conversations with the production sector,” Iffland acknowledges. “There’s a couple of dramas we’re very interested in. We’re in various stages of discussions and coming to an agreed position, and the same with Comedy. I don’t want to telescope too much what we’re looking for but I’ll be really excited when I pick up the phone and we have that conversation about it. There is more Drama and there is more Comedy in the pipeline. Definitely.”
Iffland came to SBS from his previous role as General Manager of BBC Worldwide Australia. His arrival comes at a time of change at SBS, following Michael Ebeid as Managing Director and increased government funding.
“I’m really excited about the fact that we’re back in Drama. I saw that as a big hole for SBS and wasn’t driven by anything else other than funding,” he says.
“But the chance to commission Better Man and the chance to have conversations with the production sector and to be looking for things and be active in that area, I think is fantastic.
“I’m also excited about what we can do in Comedy. I’ve said to the guys ‘We are the network that brought South Park to Australia, we are the network that commissioned Wilfred.’ I want to reclaim that space for SBS. So when something like Bullet in the Face comes along you think ‘Yes! Reclaim that reputation!’ Because if you don’t the audience soon forget.”
SBS has always been known for its Documentaries and Factual television, currently headed up by John Godfrey and Joseph Maxwell. There is another season of Who Do You Think You Are?, Upon a Time in Punchbowl‘s look at the Lebanese Community and Dirty Business: How Mining Made Australia from Renegade Productions (Wilfred, Immigration Nation, RocKwiz).
“Where we are in Factual is brilliant. John and Joseph as commissioning editors have done a fantastic job in finding and then executing the stories that really do make a difference to our society,” he says.
“I think Mining will be controversial, it will provoke debate that way it looks at the history of mining. I think it contextualises some of the issues around fly in / fly out, migrant work forces. Mining has been one of the catalysts for migration to Australia since the 1850s.
“It doesn’t pull back from the political, the power, and it looks at all those sorts of things.”
So far there is no confirmation about more of the hit series Go Back To Where You Came From. Iffland is optimistic, if guarded…
“We’re still having those creative discussions about what Go Back would be for Series Three,” he says.
“I just want the creatives to be able to have those discussions without too much pressure. I’m a great believer in allowing the creative process to work its course.
“We’ll just see where it lands. I’m hoping that we’ll be having that conversation at some stage in 2013 about what Go Back might look like.”
Cronulla Riots is an online doco about the riots that made international headlines for its violence and racism. It will complement Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl. But shouldn’t such an important subject also be given exposure on linear television?
“I wouldn’t rule that out, but we’re also very keen on making sure we have really strong 360 properties, really strong properties on digital, online and linear television. We saw this as a great way to tell a specific story but using a different medium.
“It may be that it ends up on television and I’m quite open to that. But at this stage it’s about providing that immersive audience experience you can get by providing quality and exclusive content on multiple platforms,” he says.
“The SBS digital online space is pretty impressive and we’re keen to invest in that and the Cronulla Riots programme is part of that.”
Next year both Dateline and Insight will have extended runs.
“There will be no break for them in the middle of the year, they will run right through the year which is really great for their franchise. Insight has been amazing this year and gone up a gear with fabulous audiences, great topics.”
Food Safari and Gourmet Farmer return plus specials with Luke Nguyen and a new food show Shane Delia’s Spice Journey.
“Thursday nights are working brilliantly for us. We’ve now got a great roster of food stars. We’re now doing the Middle East so there are very few food genres that we haven’t got covered with a great Australian chef,” he notes.
Next month SBS launches a dedicated channel for National Indigenous Television, NITV. The channel has been available in regional areas and through Pay TV platforms.
NITV will join SBS ONE, SBS TWO and SBS HD.
“It will have its own spectrum, 24/7. We’ve got the spare spectrum, we’ve just done a re-stack and we’ve been able to clear enough spectrum for NITV to go Free to Air. So it’s in spare spectrum capacity,” Iffland explains.
“Better use of spectrum, better use of technology allows us to launch NITV on Free to Air.”