I once heard an SBS exec quip that if you were only dropping into the channel to view documentaries about railways then “you’re not really watching SBS.”
It’s a fair point. If you switch on to watch travelogues about European rail trips, are you staying for the documentaries about racism, education and Dateline reports? Probably not. Hopefully at least you see the promos, which is central to SBS programming strategy. Draw you in with broad show, tease you with food for thought…
Last week those same railway documentaries were the top 3 show on SBS.
Great Continental Railway Journeys 382,000
Railways of the Great War 278,00
Great British Railway Journeys 277,000
It kind of begs the question…. why is there no Australian Railways doco on SBS? Why are audiences learning about Europe travel and history over our own, three nights a week?
But would a local version fit the Charter? Sure, if it brings insight to cultural and social history, with particular reference to how trains have linked us across this vast and often inhospitable terrain. Better still if they could include Indigenous history. Broaden it to Trains of the South Pacific and bam, you have yourself a series.
CNN reckons our best Aussie train trips are:
Spirit of the Outback
Kuranda Scenic Railway
TripAdvisor also suggests The Southern Spirit from Brisbane to Alice Springs.
With a charismatic, knowledgable host who could go into more detail than a Getaway segment they would doubtless attract an audience.
Discovery channel says its series Railroad Australia is its highest-rating local series but refuses to release figures. It is now heading into its second series.
The question for SBS commissioning such will centre around the cost of producing a local series versus the cheaper acquisitions. Thus far it is happy to pay economically for the broadly appealing shows to spend the coin on content that is more on Charter than a travelogue. That leaves open a golden opportunity for another broadcaster to tap into the appeal of these kinds of shows.
And maybe SBS just picks up the Discovery series down the line….