The solid growth of commercial TV in the Nordic territories, coupled with a healthy appetite for local programming, is sparking a groundbreaking move to carve up the production side of the lucrative Scandi TV pie.
Among those jockeying to make new product are some of the region’s biggest media players, including Svensk Filmindustri, Kinnevik, Schibsted and Nordisk.
The opening of Svensk’s new state-of-the-art TV production facilities on the south side of Stockholm has set the firm into high gear. Svensk is now filming the second season of the highly successful suburban soap “Three Crowns” for national state charter TV4.
While SF has previously vowed to stick to high-quality drama for its tube operations, its acquisition late last year of major indie producer Wegelius gave it the muscle to produce the game shows, sitcoms and talkshows that have filled private TV coffers across Scandinavia. Wegelius has operations in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
In general, people in the three countries tend toward light fare such as “Challenge Anneka,” a program Wegelius makes for TV2 in both Norway and Denmark. They also like gameshow formats such as “Jeopardy!”, which Schibsted churns out for TV4 in Sweden and TV2 in Norway and Denmark, and sexy youth-oriented shows like “Man O Man.”
Norwegian newspaper conglom Schibsted is acquiring additional production bases to feed current and planned channels across the Nordic territories, in the Baltic States, and possibly in Poland and the Czech Republic. In Norway, its production company, Rubicon Television, annually supplies about 150 hours of drama and entertaiment to Schibsted-backed channels TV2 and TV Pluss.
Meter, which the conglom bought earlier this year, produces 150-200 hours a year of news programs in the “60 Minutes” vein. Another recent purchase, Sweden’s Mutter Holding, is the umbrella for production company Mekano, which churns out a similar number of docus and reality programs.
Schibsted recently bought interactive programmer Oslo Net to serve as its multimedia production division.
Schibsted Film managing director Eivind Thomsen says he was hired last year to help launch the company on the international media scene. “It’s our intention to become a major film, television and multimedia presence,” Thomsen says.
While some program formats are suitable for all Nordic territories, Wegelius founder Annie Wegelius, who holds a 9% interest in the company, says locality still plays an important role in determining a program’s success. “The programs have to be adapted to individual territories. Danes are more rowdy, Norwegians are more focused on domestic issues, and Swedes see themselves as more international.”
Kinnevik, one of the region’s largest production companies, has a 40% local product slate at all of its channels, but Peter Lundin, president of Strix, the largest of Kinnevik’s production companies, says the main audience-grabbers across Norway, Sweden and Denmark are still “911”-type reality shows (such as “SOS” in Sweden), and variety shows such as “Surprise, Surprise.”
In Denmark, a dispute this August between Nordisk’s management and parent group Egmont flared over future policy, resulting in the firing or resignation of many of Nordisk’s top management.
“The independent production map since the shake-up has changed enormously, ” Wegelius says. “It opens up tremendous possibilities for us and for other producers.”
Ex-Nordisk Film head Jens Jordan is expected to start up his own rival to Nordisk in the not-so-distant future.