Jim Carroll: The changing face of SBS News

• SBS news chief on new set, app, ad campaign and growing SBS news audience

The SBS director of news and current affairs Jim Carroll visited Mediaweek recently to tell about recent developments at the broadcaster.

The channel has been running a new consumer ad campaign for SBS World News and Carroll explained they usually prioritise some market for the start of the year.

“It is a good time to promote our offerings when all our big shows are back in February – Insight, Dateline and The Feed. It is important to showcase the great shows we have in news and current affairs. We also highlight that we have made a strong push into digital over the past couple of years. Our news and current affairs content is available whenever and wherever you’d like it.”

SBS launched a new set for SBS World News at the end of 2017, which also included a redesign of graphics. “We think it is a much cleaner look that works well across all our platforms. We also launched a new website and a new app and to-date we are really pleased with the outcomes.”

With Anton Enus on leave, SBS News on weekdays is presented by Janice Peterson although she is joined on the set for sport by Mike Tomalaris while Ricardo Goncalves contributes finance news.

Ricardo Goncalves, Janice Peterson and Anton Enus

“It is a nice big studio space and we wanted to give it some depth and it is the trend in Europe and the US that has been well-received by audiences.”

Carroll told Mediaweek the ad campaign is asking people to reconsider what SBS has to offer.

“We have done some research that shows there is a perception among viewers who don’t experience our product on a regular basis that we could be a bit serious. They might say things like they think it is a news service that is a bit worthy, too serious and something their parents might have watched.

“We think we are a very contemporary and relevant news and current affairs service.

The campaign reflects that we are having a bit of fun. What we do is often serious, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are not there to give audiences a lecture. We are there to help them form their own views about key issues both globally and domestically.

The new SBS World News set

“We also wanted to highlight Janice Peterson is very interesting with a fun personality but someone who has a very serious interest in the major issues. It is about her profile as well and giving people an understanding that there is some real depth there as well.”

SBS goes hard with international news at the start of its bulletins and then runs a number of Australian items in its second 15 minutes. “We normally have about 70% international news so we don’t drill down into city or state-based issues as the commercial and ABC services do,” said Carroll. “We have a very strong bureau in Canberra, enhanced by the recent arrival of Brett Mason who spent the last seven years in Europe.”

Carroll and the corporation brand SBS the most-trusted news service in Australia alongside the ABC – “it is something we are very proud of”.

SBS news has had a focus on visually compelling pieces and it avoids assuming viewers have too much knowledge on any particular topic, explained Carroll.

“We need to cover issues comprehensively. We are also very much cross platform. Rather than Janice saying during the bulletin you can get more online, she is standing there beside a screen with a feed of our website showing what else is available.

“We deliver content on radio, television and digital platforms around the clock seven days a week. The others are doing it, but we are a little different because we have a national focus.”

Some assets from SBS’s News refresh

Carroll admitted the SBS News app hadn’t been as successful as it could have been for a number of years. However, that has all changed with the release of a new app. “We are very pleased with the product – it sends out breaking news alerts and users are able to live stream SBS World News plus Insight, Dateline and The Feed.

“In the past 12-24 months there has been an intensified focus on our digital output, which has seen great news engagement for audiences that may not traditionally follow SBS News. It won’t necessarily mean they will come and watch the TV bulletin but, if they are engaging with us on the website, through the app or on radio, that is a great outcome. We just want to reach as many people as possible in the environment they are most comfortable with.”

Although there has been massive digital audience growth for SBS News (50%+ growth year-on-year), Carroll mentioned SBS News was the only metro TV news bulletin to grow its audience in calendar 2017.

“Our Monday to Friday bulletins were up over 6%. Both Seven and SBS also increased their news audiences nationally.”

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