All aboard for a slow journey of discovery
IN AN on-demand world where broadcasters are trying to give viewers what they want when they want, SBS is taking an entirely different tack.
Combining the European phenomenon of 'slow TV' and SBS viewers' love for train shows, The Ghan: Australia's Greatest Train Journey will take viewers on a real-time journey on the iconic train ride from Adelaide to Darwin.
That means three hours of ad-free, uninterrupted viewing as The Ghan motors along its 2979 kilometre line through the stunning scenery of the outback.
"One thing we have noticed is our audiences do quite enjoy journeys on trains," Marshall Heald, SBS Director of TV and Online Content, tells The Guide.
"The slow TV movement has been a European phenomenon for the past few years, and in this really needy, fast-timed world of reality TV it offers a real point of difference.
"We'll have a three-hour journey on TV ad free and then also a 17-hour version on SBS On Demand, giving audiences the chance to sit back and have a meditative experience. Hopefully it's crazy enough that it might actually work."
If watching three hours of a train journey sounds as exciting as watching paint dry, then Mr Heald can allay some of your concerns.
"There will be a lot of graphic overlays, which will be a way for audiences to discover the multicultural and Aboriginal history of Australia," he says.
Also spicing things up will be aerial footage and some handy facts provided by The Ghan's staff. For example, at its maximum length of 1.1km The Ghan is the world's longest passenger train.
The hypnotic format is a hit in Scandinavia where it was pioneered. In 2009 Norway's scenic, seven-hour Bergen to Oslo train journey beamed on to television screens.
That was topped two years later with the broadcast of Hurtigruten Cruises' 134-hour voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. By comparison, The Ghan is just a taste of what slow TV has to offer.
The Ghan: Australia's Greatest Train Journey airs on Sunday at 7.30pm on SBS.