“The motivation behind the move is we want to widen that sample size, and broadcast is still a great way to do that. This is a lovely endorsement from SBS to say, ‘Hey, we know this stuff is working and we know people respond to it. Now let’s open it up to a slightly bigger audience’.”
It’s also a grab at turning Tuesday night into “destination TV” for SBS. Airing at 10pm, The Feed will follow veteran current affairs programs Insight at 8.30pm and Dateline at 9.30pm.
“The comparison has been made to what the ABC do on a Monday night, what I jokingly refer to as the ‘Monday night wall of knowledge’: Australian Story, Four Corners, Media Watch and Q&A,” Fennell said. “But we’re essentially a late-night show, and we want it to feel that way.”
SBS head of news and current affairs Jim Carroll calls the move a “natural progression for the program” and suggests it’s ripe for a broader audience.
“The challenge around The Feed has always been getting scale with audiences, and in that Viceland environment it can be pretty tough to drag people across to current affairs content. Younger viewers don’t have a great connection to linear TV; they like to watch content in bite-size chunks on digital platforms and that’s obviously where The Feed has been successful,” Carroll said.
“But if you look at the kind of content they cover, it’s not just the young, hip content. It does a lot of investigations, a lot of great interviews, and I think Marc is one of the best, if not the best, interviewer on television. It’s really quality storytelling and I think with this move we’ve got a chance for more people to take a look at it.”
He also hopes the show’s viral success might rub off on its new main channel cohorts.
“The reality for us is, particularly young people, might never watch Insight or Dateline on TV, but they actually like the themes they cover, the issues they cover, the talent on those shows, so how do we connect with them?” says Carroll.
“The Feed comes from the reverse situation as it’s known as a digital brand, and so hopefully that will help align with what we’re doing with Dateline and Insight.”
Launched as a nightly 15-minute show in 2013, The Feed has since produced Walkley-winning reports and unearthed broadcasting stars including Patrick Abboud, Jeanette Francis, Andy Park, Laura Murphy-Oates and satirist Mark Humphries. In 2015, the show was nominated for a Logie Award for Most Outstanding Public Affairs Report.
“I remember going along to [the Logies] and realising, ‘Wow, we are this tiny show on a secondary channel that punches so far above its weight.’ That was a huge moment, and there was this vivid feeling then that we could change and grow and accrue new people,” says Fennell.
“When I worked on Hungry Beast with Andrew Denton, he had a phrase that stuck with me: The best opportunity is the one that’s in front of you. We’ve used our air-time, we have a talented group of people, and we’ve made remarkable things.
“We’re pretty confident in the things we do, we’ve seen people respond to it, now we want a bigger audience to sample it.”
The Feed moves to the SBS main channel on Tuesday at 10pm.
Robert Moran is a culture reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age