SBS’s James Taylor on his 12 months in charge & 2020 challenges

• One of Taylor’s first roles was hosting their 2019 Upfront, last week a year later he hosted the 2020 Upfront.

Just over 12 months ago James Taylor was promoted at SBS to the role of managing director, replacing Michael Ebeid who moved to Telstra.

One of Taylor’s first roles was hosting their 2019 Upfront, last week a year later he hosted the 2020 Upfront. Taylor explained to Mediaweek what he and the team have achieved in his first 12 months leading the broadcaster and publisher. They have been busy.

“Over the past year we have been able to offer a very clear brand position– ‘A world of Difference’ – and that’s a strong, unifying force for us,” said Taylor.

We relaunched SBS Food around this time last year which has pivoted back to be more about who SBS is. It is a real celebration of culture through cuisine. We launched SBS World Movies and that has been a tremendous success really honouring our charter. At least 50% of the content is in a language other than English and really bringing in audiences and giving them the best of world cinema.

“We have become the FTA home of basketball in Australia which is still only a few months old. It allows us to showcase all of the NBL and a solid chunk of NBA and WNBA. It is an important offering for younger multicultural Australians that really embrace basketball.

“Our successful drama this year was The Hunting which told a nuanced story featuring a multicultural cast that spoke to all Australians.”

SBS MD James Taylor

Taylor explained the broadcaster’s total budget is close to $400m and about 70% comes from government funding. “We have been fortunate that our funding has been maintained. The remaining 30% comes from our commercial activities, principally advertising. We have a number of other revenue sources which are really closely linked to our charter.

“We have an Inclusion Program which is an online training resource which helps corporations train their staff on different types of inclusion – cultural inclusion, Indigenous, LGBTI+, gender inclusion and disability inclusion to help create workforces and workplaces that better understand the need to create environments where everyone can participate irrespective of their background or their circumstances. It has 350,000 users around the country and is growing extremely fast.

“The revenue opportunities we pursue are very explicitly linked to our charter and purpose as an organisation.”

On diversity, Taylor noted in his Upfront presentation it is talked about more than acted on. He later told Mediaweek: “We all need to think how we move past a conversation about diversity. We need to quickly ensure our workforces are truly diverse so we can focus on inclusion.

As to future growth, Taylor said SBS is looking to continue to service audiences both on FTA channels and via SBS On Demand.

“The driver of the fragmentation of FTA channels has been about responding to audience’s desires to be fed more niche propositions. We will launch channels where it makes sense to do so. The roll of On Demand is to catch audience when they fall out of the FTA eco system. We are very pleased with the growth of our on demand. We are a public organisation and we need to be where the audiences are delivering value where they want it delivered. It is the sort of platform that only SBS could produce.”

Although the SBS budget has been relatively steady, Taylor admitted there is never enough money to do all the things they’d like to offer to audiences.

“The market continues to get more competitive and we constantly seek new skill sets so that in particular our digital products can really shine and be world class. We are always looking for awesome stories that will reflect the wonderful diversity of Australian society. We think the 2020 schedule is a very positive reflection of modern Australia.

Top Photo: SBS’s James Taylor with Ricardo Goncalves (left) and Joel Creasey (right)

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