Entertainment TV SBS alienates older viewers with risqué Viceland channel

SBS alienates older viewers with risqué Viceland channel

Viceland Action Bronson
Rapper and chef Action Bronson is one of the stars of Viceland's programming. Photo: SBS
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Australian public broadcaster SBS is making a concerted play for younger viewers with the shameless, age-specific marketing of its new Viceland channel.

A partnership between SBS and Canadian-American giant Vice Media, Viceland replaced SBS’s second digital channel SBS 2 on Tuesday.

SBS has advertised Viceland as a “truly cutting-edge, contemporary mix of local and international programs, made by young people, for young people”.

This includes coverage of issues like “butt injections in the Congo”, the etiquette of weed use, the shoplifting habits of London’s heroin addicts and cyber warfare in Syria.

The Australian launch of the channel on Wednesday night took the form of an uber trendy party at a brewery in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood, where a queue to get in snaked around the corner.

The music was loud and obscure, the bar impenetrable and the crowd intimidatingly hip. The only evidence of SBS’s involvement was a silent wall projection of the channel’s trailer on loop.

Moreover, anyone over the age of 30 was nearly impossible to find – a clear indicator of the demographic SBS seeks to attract.

While Viceland’s debut on Tuesday boosted SBS’s ratings somewhat, the buzz wasn’t strong enough to draw the kind of numbers able to compete with the ABC or SBS’s main channel.

In the channel’s homeland of the United States, ratings are also struggling to meet expectations.

“Twelve months from now we’ll be on the cover of Time magazine as the guys who brought millennials back to TV,” Vice co-founder and CEO Shane Smith boasted to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Viceland’s US launch in February this year.

Spike Jonze
Viceland’s content is overseen by director Spike Jonze. Photo: Getty

Interestingly, the American iteration of the channel is actually attracting viewers with a median age of 40.

This may be because the content is compelling enough to transcend age, despite Vice’s best efforts to the contrary.

In Australia, some of SBS’s existing shows like The Feed and If You Are the One are joined by some of Vice’s original programs, from cooking shows to confronting experiential documentaries.

The channel also continues to broadcast one A-League match a week.

As of this week, it’s all free to watch on SBS 2 and online, no matter your age. These are the shows to look out for.

Warning: Trailers contain explicit language and some confronting content.

Black Market

The Wire star Michael K Williams explores the world searching for those on the outer limits of society, meeting heroin addicts in London and poachers in South Africa.


Actress Ellen Page (of Juno fame) and her best friend travel around the world to explore how queer culture exists in each country. A particularly confronting episode sees them come face-to-face with a serial killer who specifically targets queer people in Brazil.

States of Undress

Indie film actress Hailey Benton Gates explores global fashion trends and industry in countries like Russia, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She tries wearing a burqa, interviews the victim of an acid attack as well as the man who attacked her and learns about the limitations facing women around the world when they get dressed.


Host Krishna Andavolu takes a look at the ethics of marijuana use and the case for legalisation, chatting to those who say the drug has medicinal benefits as well as those whose lives have been damaged by weed use.

F*** That’s Delicious

American rapper and food lover Action Bronson does a gastronomical tour of the globe, eating and cooking paella in Barcelona and tagines in Morocco – he even manages to make it to Australia.


An in-depth look at the increasingly important role of hackers in international politics and national security. Host Ben Makuch talks to government officials and the hackers themselves to get a better understanding of the terrifying possibilities of the technology age.

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