Scandinavian TV Operators Focus on Original Content to Compete Against Netflix

Scandinavia, which includes Norway and Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, has long been a stronghold for over-the-top video distribution. HBO launched its first SVOD service, HBO Nordics, in the region in 2012.

Swedish TV operator Com Hem in 2014 was one of the first cable operators to offer subscribers direct access to Netflix. The SVOD pioneer is now the largest streaming service in the Nordics with more than 5 million subscribers.

As a result, local TV distributors have partnered (Nordics 12) to up local content production in an effort to better compete against Netflix.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Despite boasting a large catalog of international content and having made investments in local titles such as “Red Dot” (Netflix), foreign SVOD services have largely ignored domestically-produced series. This has led local OTT competitors to develop their own locally produced originals as a differentiating factor, according to new data from Ampere Analytics.

Indeed, Netflix Sweden features just 3% local titles, while Amazon Prime Video offers 1% local fare. Meanwhile, almost half (47%) of the content offered by CMore and 13% of Viaplay’s is locally produced, and the majority of Nordic content currently in production has been commissioned by local players.

Viaplay as the biggest commissioner of new TV shows in the region, followed by public broadcasters SVT, YLE and DR.

Analyst Léa Cunat said local and regional distgributors are 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.

“Across the globe we’re seeing local TV groups trying to take on the power of the global streaming services by capitalizing on whichever gaps in the market exist,” Cunat said in a statement.

Netflix Ups Nordic Movie Production

Netflix has increased original movie production in Scandinavia, including productions in Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The SVOD behemoth Nov. 14 at the Stockholm Film Festival announced titles include Swedish thriller, Red Dot; Norway’s horror pic, Cadaver and Denmark’s World War II film, Shadows in My Eyes.

The news follows Netflix’s move into original feature film production in Holland with The Battle of the Scheldt.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We are very happy to be taking this exciting step in offering our members in the Nordics more local content, as well as bring more great content from the Nordic region to our global members,” Lina Brouneus, director of licensing and co-productions for Netflix in Northern Europe, said in a statement.

Norway is home to Netflix’s first original production, “Lilyhammer,” starring Steven Van Zandt, which began streaming in 2012.

Last year, Netflix inked a deal with Danish producer Kim Magnusson for original movies from the Nordic region.

“These three films are all unique in their own way: strong genre films with engaging plot lines that are driven by talented creatives,” Brouneus said. “Together they form a strong package of different genres which will showcase the versatility and high quality of Nordic movies.”

GameStop Reportedly Shutting Down Nordic Stores

Fiscally challenged GameStop is reportedly set to begin closing upwards of 300 stores in Scandinavia in 2020.

The closures have not been officially announced, but store managers in the region confirmed the move, according to Computer Sweden. In addition, an annual management conference was reportedly canceled.

The move comes as the world’s largest video game retailer contends with ongoing consumer migration toward online gaming and console manufacturers delay new product launches until late next year.

GameStop posted a net loss of more than $400 million — or $32 million when excluding impairment charges, in its most-recent fiscal period. Revenue fell more than 14% to $1.28 billion from more than $1.5 billion during the previous-year period.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We are on track to close between 180 and 200 underperforming stores globally by the end of this fiscal year,” GameStop CFO Jim Bell said on the September fiscal call. The chain operates more than 5,700 stores globally. Bell said the closures marked the beginning of ongoing re-evaluation across all company operating units.

“We are applying a more definitive, analytic approach, including profit levels and sales transferability, that we expect will yield a much larger tranche of closures over the coming 12 to 24 months,” he said.

‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ Drive HBO Nordic Sub Growth

Scandinavia (especially Sweden) has long been a hotbed for subscription streaming video. HBO launched its first over-the-top video service — HBO Nordic — long before the domestic rollout of HBO Now in 2014.

HBO Nordic remains a formidable competitor to Netflix and other local SVOD services notably this year thanks to “Game of Thrones” and “Big Little Lies,” among other programming.

New data from Mediavision contends the final season of “Thrones” and second season of “Lies” jumpstarted HBO Nordic subscriber growth to more than 200,000 members in Sweden in the second quarter (ended June 30) — up 50% from the previous-year period.

By comparison, market leader Netflix grew 14% year-over-year.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Mediavision believes the sub growth can also be attributed to new seasons of “Big Little Lies,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” — the latter available in the U.S. exclusively on Hulu. HBO’s original (created by Comcast-owned Sky) miniseries — “Chernobyl” — also received a strong reception from both Swedish audiences and critics.

As is the trend globally among OTT and traditional media distributors, original content is driving subscriber interest. But it’s not just global services that are increasing their content investments.

In Sweden, both C More and Viaplay have launched new drama series, in addition to extending existing episodic programming. Viaplay’s owner NENT has announced that it intends to launch six new original series in 2019.

Netflix, of course, has taken original content one step further. Its Swedish original series, “Greatest of all,” is produced for Netflix by the Swedish production company FLX — a strategy the SVOD pioneer is emulating in markets worldwide.

“We are moving towards a period where the value of many and strong titles is likely to increase further,” Marie Nilsson, CEO of Mediavision, said in a statement. “The hunt for new customers is also learning to intensify, as major players such as Disney and Apple are ready to enter Sweden, too. This will help drive the streaming market further.”