SBT has most of its schedule dedicated to children and pre-teens, making it the favourite network for the young audience. In 1998, SBT was running the longest-in-length children's programming block ever, together with TV Cultura; it was shown from Sessão Desenho, a cartoon block, at 7:00 am (right after the morning newscast), until 9:00 pm, when the children's telenovela Chiquititas normally ended. SBT promoted this situation on the screen, calling this whole period as SBT Kids, a total of 14 hours per day, and until nowadays neither SBT nor other networks have beaten this mark.
While most TV stations in Brazil depends mostly on national productions, SBT depends heavily on imports, mainly from Mexico and the USA. For more than 20 years comedy show El Chavo del Ocho (shown in Brazil as Chaves) is one of the station's most-watched shows. The show also has a deal with Warner Brothers which gives the channel an exclusivity deal to show all their sitcoms, dramas and movies.
For a long time, Mexican telenovelas have been one of the most recognizable features on SBT, mostly during the early 1990s when they reached their peak in the country with titles like the children-oriented Carrusel, La Usurpadora, El Privilegio de Amar, Luz Clarita, and the incredibly successful María trilogy (María Mercedes, Marimar, María la del Barrio). Compared to the toned-down Brazilian telenovelas, Mexican soaps are considered tacky and exaggerated, but during the 1990s were a huge hit with lower-class people.
Other '90s hits include Domingo Legal (Cool Sunday, on literal translation), a Sunday variety show which during the later part of the decade was SBT's highest-rated show, even surpassing TV Globo; the most popular TV channel on Brazil, for hours, something which was very rare. Domingo Legal was criticized for being excessively sensationalist and ratings started to decline after the PCC scandal (see below). As of 2008, the show is often ranked second in the ratings. The list of hits continues with Show do Ratinho (Ratinho's Show), which had a similar format to Jerry Springer, Show do Milhão (The Million Show), a game show in the vein of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Chiquititas, which was a big hit among kids.
For over 20 years SBT was the second place in Brazilian television ratings, behind Rede Globo, but in February 2007 it was outpaced by Rede Record for the first time in São Paulo.
Since the 90s peak in popularity, Mexican telenovelas have been declining in the audience hitting an all time-low in the last two years (the last Mexican soap operas to have big ratings were Carita de Ángel in the early 2000s and Rebelde, which was a phenomenon in 2006). In 2001, SBT decided to start remaking Mexican soaps with Brazilian actors. The first soaps (Picara Sonhadora and Marisol) did fairly well in the ratings; however, they have hit an all-time low recently, with soaps like Cristal, Os Ricos Também Choram and Maria Esperança (a version of the highly successful Maria Mercedes), scoring very low ratings.
Beside Mexican soaps and their remakes, the channel also air cartoons during the morning, and formats like Ídolos, Brazilian version of American Idol, that was replaced to TV Record, and the Brazilian version of Supernanny, which are two of the most watched shows on the channel, and also a version of Deal or No Deal (presented by Silvio Santos himself, who presents many of the network shows), lots of talent shows and one dating show. The channel also shows movies and A Praça é Nossa, a comedy show which has been one of the network's highest-rated shows since the early days.