Nordic track: Lower prices, lower volume

THE HAGUE — Nordic players have been fussing about output deals and high pricetags on import fare for some time. No deals are on the renegotiation table, but tough times have given grumblers added ammo to hunt for better bargains in the future.

Twentieth Century Fox’s output deal with national commercial channels TV2 Denmark and TV4 Sweden won’t be up for renegotiation for several years, but parties say terms won’t likely be the same when they do sit down to discuss renewal. Ditto for an output deal that TV2 Denmark has with CBS.

“The kind of output deal that we have seen up until now is not going to continue,” notes Feline Munck, an acquisitions exec for TV2.

“We’re very happy with the international product,” she adds, “but we really have to carefully watch our inventory. The sheer volume of these deals in combination with an increasing demand for local production contradicts the essential objective of the output deal.”

Some 50% of TV2′s programming is imported, with such dramas as Fox’s “24″ pulling heavy primetime auds in Denmark.

In Sweden, TV ad spend dropped by some 11% in 2001, hitting all the commercial channels hard.

“We’re not renegotiating any ongoing deals, but next time around, we’ll want lower prices and lower volume,” says TV4 Sweden acquisitions exec Clara Scherman.

Acquisitions budgets so far haven’t been axed, she adds, but who knows what’s around the corner. Channel imports 50% of its programming, is hot for primetime dramas, but not for TV movies.

In Finland, national commercial channel MTV3 was hit hard by a drop in TV ad spend of 9%, with heavy cuts in its budget across the board and more than 100 employees axed.

A drop in Finnish pubcaster YLE’s license fee forced cutbacks at the net, but not in acquisitions.

“The launch of our digital channels last year has made picking up digital rights, frankly, a serious priority for us,” says Ingegerd Pesonen, head of international program acquisitions. A combination of analog and digital rights for a shopping list of up to 4,000 hours annually is needed, adds Pesonen.

Although not tied to advertising, economics has driven Norwegian pubcaster NRK to hand over its sales division to TV2 Danmark, which will rep more than 30 of NRK’s titles.

TV2 represents a number of independent catalogs in Scandinavia and across other parts of Europe.

“The costs for a small network like NRK of bringing these productions to the international market can be heavy,” notes Mette Hoffman Meyer, head of sales and co-productions for TV2 Danmark.

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