Nordic B’casters Set For Battle, On Prowl For Product

Commercial television across Scandinavia continues on a roll, but webs that KO’d pubcaster shares several years ago with a heavy diet of international – mostly American – product are now priming for local programming duels. The Nordics are still buying foreign product in record amounts, but it won’t get into primetime unless it’s sizzling.

Norway remains the hottest growth market. Viewers demand news and locally made programs shuffled with racy action-adventure from abroad. Market share for national commercial terrestrial web TV2 has jumped from 26% to 32% during the past year. Most of the gain has been at the expense of pubcaster NRK, which has finally gone after the channel with full guns.

The battle is expected to get bloodier when TV2 backer Schibsted launches TV Plus in March, with start-up and programming heavily choreographed by TV2’s chief buyer John Ranelagh. He not only helped bow the Bergen-based channel, but also was a prime mover behind Channel 4 in the UK and TV2 in Denmark.

The TV Plus launch has TV2 buyers working overtime, with acquisitions more than doubling. Meanwhile, NRK is set to launch a second channel.

Sweden’s TV4 now is going head-to-head with pubcaster SVT in locally produced drama. TV4 tapped venerable drama producer Svensk Filmindustri to make the high-rated soap “Three Crowns.” This year it plans another homegrown drama, “Missing Persons.”

Swedish pubcaster SVT has just had its budget slashed for the next four years by about $40 million. But the toll probably will be taken in management restructuring and other streamlining rather than wholesale slashing of acquisitions.

With a cluster of pay-TV channels offering similar fare, it appears that feature film acquisitions will be down this year. If SVT decides to buy feature films, it’s likely to lean on the European side, looking for dramas such as BBC’s “House of Elliot.”

In Denmark, the government is still mulling over starting a web to rival state commercial charter TV2, which leans heavily on its own programming, while keeping an eye abroad for quality action-adventure and drama. Its buying needs are the same, says acquisitions exec Annette Romer, but its scouts will be out in less force at Monte Carlo because of its proximity to NATPE.

Look for one of the biggest fights over programming on the Finnish front, with buyers out in force from both MTV3 and pubcaster YLE.

The buying at markets seems to remain unchanged, but should be leaner and meaner. Admits an MTV3 rep, “With YL1 and YL2 having reorganized their activities, the competition is getting very tough.”

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