The multicultural public broadcaster SBS has hired one of Australia’s most senior global media executives, Kathryn Fink, to run its television division as it looks to compete against international streaming services increasingly offering foreign language content to local audiences.
Fink, a former senior executive at News Corp who was most recently behind the launch of Disney’s streaming service in Italy, said the multicultural broadcaster will be able to withstand the threat of a highly competitive streaming market. She said she hopes to bring three decades worth of programming experience to the role which was held by Marshall Heald until his resignation last December.
“[Streaming] is definitely becoming increasingly competitive both for customers but also for product,” Fink says. “But…SBS – they’re really a leader in the space in Australia. They’ve got a unique position because they were the first to launch on demand…as a destination. The other thing is the fact that [because] it has such a unique positioning, that it’s less much less exposed to the threats of increasing competition.”
“I’m coming back to kind of the dream job within the dream company. I put my hand up for this role because I really believe in its mission and its charter,” she said. “I love the fact that it brings content to multicultural indigenous communities across Australia, as well as bringing that kind of content to the broader mainstream Australian audience that has a bit more of a global and international perspective.”
Fink, who is also currently an independent director of the Juventus Football Club, spent most of her early career working for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in roles such as director of corporate finance and president of News Digital Ventures.
Fink has lived in Italy since she took part in the launch of Murdoch’s cable TV network, Sky Italia, in the early 2000s before running its programming division where she became known for productions such as Romanzo Criminale. Fink also ran Fox Networks in Italy before it merged with Disney and launched Disney+ in the market at the height of the pandemic.
Fink’s background is largely in programming, but the roles held to date are focused on commissioning content for subscription products, such as Sky Italia and Disney+. But Fink said there is not a lot of distinction between looking for programs that work on free-to-air television like SBS or for a streaming platform like Disney+.
“I’ve worked across all the different genres, and I’ve worked within different content areas – I’ve been responsible for commissioning, acquisitions and programming, but also for operations and distribution rights,” she said. “At the end of the day the thing that connects – whether you’re working in subscription pay television or a public broadcaster – it’s about understanding audiences and bringing content that is relevant to them.”
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