Innovation is key to securing audiences as Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) premieres new series The Family Law on Facebook.

Public service broadcasters (PSB’s) worldwide are grappling with the challenge of securing audiences and maintaining relevance in a media landscape dominated by choice.

Whether it’s competition from entertainment driven commercial broadcasters or the availability of content online, it has long been acknowledged that PSBs need to broaden the media formats they use to attract larger audiences.

Online services such as the BBC’s iPlayer and ABC’s iview have demonstrated the potential for broadcasters to tap into audiences that have moved away from conventional television viewing.

SBS already has a well-established On Demand service which hosts over 600 films and has some 9million hits per month. Yet these services are expensive to maintain and are not exempt from the pressures of competition, such as that of Netflix and other paid–for streaming services, which host content from a wide range of producers.

The use of Facebook to premiere a series can be seen as a smart move to tap into a commonly used resource across the audience spectrum. 11million Australians use Facebook daily, 91% of which access the site via a mobile device. SBS itself has over 185,000 Facebook “likes”.

“As audiences move more freely between platforms and devices, we as a broadcaster have to move with them”

Facebook banner for The Family Law. Image: SBS
Facebook banner for The Family Law. Image: SBS

In a statement marking SBS’s first premiere on a social media platform, Marshall Heald, director of TV and online content said: “As audiences move more freely between platforms and devices, we as a broadcaster have to move with them… We are constantly looking for innovative ways to bring SBS content to all Australians, and Facebook offers such a unique one-to-one viewing experience.”

This premiere will also offer the organisation an opportunity to lure audiences back to conventional broadcasting, with future episodes being shown on television. This use of social media by broadcasters has been growing in popularity in the past year, with the debut of Network Seven’s X Factor clocking 100,000 views within three hours and forty minutes.

Innovation is central to maintaining audiences in the digital age. As such, the use of social media to debut content may prove to be an affordable alternative for broadcasters elsewhere in the world, which lack the resources to compete with online competitors or maintain a streaming service of their own.