Nordic Streamers Fight Netflix With Local Content

Veni Vidi Vici - H - 2017
Credit: MTG Studios

As the streaming wars heat up, Scandinavian networks are stocking up on homegrown series, a new report from Ampere Analysis finds.

As the streaming wars go global, Nordic TV networks are thinking local. 
In a bid to distinguish themselves from international giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime (and new streaming services including Disney+ and Apple TV+), Scandinavian players are doubling down on homegrown series. 
A new report from London-based Ampere Analysis, published Tuesday, found that Nordic TV companies are shifting their content budgets towards local production, commissioning more local-language series, alone or via co-productions. 
In Sweden, nearly half (47 percent) of the content offered on pay TV service CMore is locally produced. The figure on competitor Viaplay is 13 percent. That compares to just 3 percent Swedish titles on Netflix, the largest streaming service in the Nordic region — with 4.5 million subscribers — and less than 1 percent on Amazon Prime. 
Viaplay parent company Nordic Entertainment Group recently announced plans to double its original production output from 20 to 40 originals per year. The company, producer of such original series as Black Lake and Veni, Vidi, Vici, is the largest commissioner of new shows in the region. 
Scandinavian public broadcasters are following suit, shifting their budgets away from U.S. acquisitions toward local productions. Ampere's report found that in 2012, just under half of Nordic TV groups’ content spend, excluding sports rights expenditure, was dedicated to local originals, with 51 percent earmarked for acquired films and TV series. By 2018, that figure had jumped to 57 percent, with 43 percent set aside for international acquisitions. Networks like Sweden public broadcaster SVT have shifted their acquisitions strategy, dropping large-volume package deals with U.S. networks in favor of single pick-up of American shows, such as The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Public broadcasters are also pooling resources to compete with the swelling budgets of internationally made drama. Last year, the public broadcasters in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland launched their so-called Nordic 12 initiative, which will see the channels jointly fund local productions, including Denmark's Follow the Money, Swedish series Course in Self-Annihilation and Norway's Nudes, with each network retaining exclusive domestic linear and digital rights to the resulting shows for a 12-month period. The initiative plans to produce 12 originals per year. 
Consumer polling by Ampere suggests local viewers are responding. In Sweden in the third quarter, Ampere found that nearly half (49 percent) of respondents said they had used SVT Play, the public broadcaster's streaming service, in the past month. In Denmark, 31 percent of respondents reported using DR's DRTV platform in the previous month. 
Ampere Analysis analyst Léa Cunat sees the local approach as a means for regional networks to "take on the power of the global streaming services by capitalizing on whichever gaps in the market exist. In the case of the Nordics, that means ramping up investment in originated content, either individually or as part of partnerships like Nordic 12, to win audiences’ loyalty in both local and international markets."