Bridget Ryan has worked in talent management, drama production, TV acquisitions and programming throughout her career in the media. She is currently the Acquisitions Manager, Scripted for SBS Television in Australia. In this role she acquires scripted series programming for SBS channels and platforms including the world drama offering for SBS On Demand. She has been responsible for bringing hundreds of international series to Australian audiences including Trapped, Midnight Sun, The Bureau, The Handmaid’s Tale and Years and Years.

The Interview

TV France International: Could you tell us a little about SBS?

Bridget Ryan: SBS is one of five main free-to-air networks in Australia and one of two public broadcasters but holds a unique place in the Australian media landscape as a media organization with a special Charter dedicated to inspiring all Australians to explore, respect and celebrate our diverse world and in doing so, contribute to an inclusive and cohesive society. SBS is a modern, multiplatform media organization with a free-to-air TV portfolio spanning five distinctive channels in SBS, NITV, SBS VICELAND, SBS Food and SBS World Movies; an extensive radio network providing 68 communities with services in their own language; and an innovative digital offering, including the streaming service, SBS On Demand.

SBS reaches almost 12 million Australians each month. SBS On Demand has 9 million registered users where audiences can enjoy the world’s best content, free and accessible to all with content in more than 50 languages, and with 160 hours of new drama available on the platform every month.

In addition to bringing diverse stories to Australian audiences by acquiring content from all around the world, SBS commissions original content across drama, documentaries, news and current affairs, food and entertainment programming.

TV France International: What is SBS’ acquisitions strategy? How did it evolve following the Covid-19 pandemic?

Bridget Ryan: Our audience is passionate about new content with a world view. They love drama, entertainment and international stories. The continued expansion of SBS On Demand has given us greater opportunity to experiment with content acquisition than a traditional linear environment. We aim to deliver both niche and popular programming, with diversity and distinctiveness being at the heart of our acquisition strategy.

Like everyone, we’ve had to adapt to the changing landscape of the Covid-19 era. In terms of audience taste we’ve found that viewers have not shied away from confronting, hard-hitting drama. However, we’re conscious to offer both light and shade so we’ve also been acquiring dramedies and series that offer some escape from the modern reality.

TV France International: What were SBS’ most recent acquisitions in terms of French content? How did they meet your needs?

Bridget Ryan: We’ve acquired thousands of hours of French dramas and comedies over the years for our platforms – far too many to list! – but they include Spiral, Derby Girl, Cheyenne and Lola, The Returned, Nude, Apnea, The Crimson Rivers, The Bureau and most recently, Paris Police 1900 and En Therapie.

Derby Girl (2020, 10×22’) / France tv distribution

Cheyenne & Lola (2020, 8×60’) / Federation Entertainment

Nude (2018, 10×26’) / Newen Connect

Apnea (2019, 6×45’) / LS Distribution

Paris Police 1900 (2020, 8×60’) / StudioCanal

French content has always been an important part of our international drama offering. Many of our core audience members have a deep appreciation of French culture and language and are very receptive to French storytelling. Of course, we also have a French-speaking community in Australia to which these programs cater, and French series are also sought out by Australians learning the language who want to enhance their skills.

First and foremost, we look for programming that is distinctive, engaging, well-crafted, opens up new worlds for audiences and generally delivers great storytelling. Due to its quality and popularity, we consistently have a steady stream of French content available for viewers on SBS On Demand.

TV France International: What do you think about French production generally?

Bridget Ryan: The French production industry seems to have adapted well to the Covid crisis, which is a testament to all involved. SBS appreciates the strong production values of French content, and the quality and originality of programming across a diversity of genres coming out of the country. Our audiences have responded to the exploration of complex realities in Spiral as well as the glossy stylings of Agatha Christie’s Criminal Games, and we know they will be absorbed by the contemporary anxieties of the characters in En Therapie.  

Spiral – Seasons 1 to 8 (2005-2020, 86×52’) / StudioCanal

Criminal Games, New Agatha Christie Collection (2012-2019, 27×90’) / France tv distribution

In Treatment / En thérapie (2021, 35×26’) / Federation Entertainment

TV France International: What French content has seen the most success on your channel or platform?

Bridget Ryan: War of the Worlds (French/US co-production for Fox and Canal+) was a big hit for us in 2020 on SBS and SBS On Demand and we’re really looking forward to bringing the second series to audiences this year. Given the world was in the grip of Covid-19 when the series premiered, a story about an alien invasion and the end of the world could have been a tough watch for audiences! But they were completely transfixed by the reimagining of the H.G. Wells classic.

War of the Worlds – Season 2 (2021, 8×60’) / StudioCanal

It would be impossible not to mention The Bureau which has been a hugely successful title for SBS On Demand. Over the five seasons, audiences have become addicted to this finely crafted series that has all the thrills of a slick espionage, as well as being grounded with incredible authenticity.

The Bureau – Season 1 to 5 (2013-2019, 50×52’) / Federation Entertainment