New-look SBS On Demand now offers 4,000 hours of content

SBS has relaunched its On Demand video service, which now offers an assortment of TV shows, documentaries and over 600 international and Australian films.

Nic Healey Senior Editor / Australia
Nic Healey is a Senior Editor with CNET, based in the Australia office. His passions include bourbon, video games and boring strangers with photos of his cat.
Nic Healey
3 min read


SBS has relaunched its SBS On Demand website, offering a redesigned look and new content offerings. First launched as a catch-up TV service in September 2011, SBS On Demand has grown significantly and now features over 4,000 hours of video.

The publicly funded TV, radio and online broadcaster is dedicated to providing content that "informs, educates and entertains all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society." In October last year, the broadcaster opened up its extensive film catalogue, offering 400 movies on demand declaring it "no catch, no subscription, no illegal downloading." The relaunch increases that number to over 600 films, along with 350 feature documentaries and full seasons of a number of TV shows.

All five Australian TV broadcasters currently offer an online catch-up service, usually allowing viewers to watch previously shown TV episodes for a limited time. SBS is the only local broadcaster to focus on offering a full movie-on-demand service.

With the sharp increase in subscription video on demand services in Australia this year, including the US-based behemoth Netflix, catch-up and on demands services are becoming more integral to the success of TV networks, as traditional broadcast viewing is in slow decline. A recent report from research company Nielsen said that "Australians spend a little less time at the 'full buffet' of live linear television and a little more time viewing 'a la carte,' watching their favourite TV shows when they want." This trend is expected to continue in the coming years.

Indeed, Neilsen figures for the US show traditional broadcast viewing fell 12 percent over the course of 2014, prompting Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to compare linear TV -- traditionally scheduled programming for broadcast -- to a fax machine at the 2015 Media Convention in Berlin:

"Sometimes I say that linear TV is like the fax machine. In the '80s and '90s the fax machine was amazing. But then you started attaching files on documents and the fax machine was not so amazing. Linear TV, it completely transformed society. But now there's something better: Internet TV."

Some of the curated film collections on the SBS On Demand site. Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET

The new-look SBS On Demand website has been designed to scale down for tablet and smartphone screens, and offers an "uncluttered" new interface. SBS has also added curated content collections -- the current examples include French cinema, Festival Favourites and a list called Get a Room, a collection of "international stories of human sexuality that leave little to the imagination."

In all, SBS On Demand is available across 22 different platforms, including an array of Smart TVs, set-top boxes and gaming consoles.

At an event to announce the relaunch of the site, Michael Ebeid, SBS managing director, highlighted the strong growth that SBS has seen in On Demand and highlighted the broadcaster's commitment to the service, promising exclusive content "not seen on network."

Marshall Heald, director of TV and Online at SBS, said "we love linear free-to-air TV but On Demand offers us the potential to build true depth of content."

SBS On Demand Highlights

  • "Rectify": Season 3 of the popular show will be available from July 10 with seasons 1 and 2 "available to binge" from July 3.
  • Bosch Season 1: The first episode of this Amazon Original show based on the popular novels by Michael Connelly will be available from July 22.
  • Masters of Sex: The first episode of the third season of the critically acclaimed show will be available on demand from July 30
  • Going Gibney: A collection of the works from the master documentarian, including parts 1 and 2 of "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All" and "Gonzo: Hunter S Thompson."