K7 Media

K7 Media

Nordic optimism for the future of post-peak TV Drama

In January, K7 headed to Gothenburg for TV Drama Vision, the television-focused strand of the Gothenburg Film Festival.

After ending 2023 with somewhat downbeat editions of the Edinburgh TV Festival and Content London, we were delighted by the Nordic optimism for the future which ran through the lively conference.

Peak Drama’s ‘Last Hurrah’

As we move firmly into the post-peak TV era of scripted television, the conference came to terms with the facts that: commissioning rates have fallen, that streamers have reached subscriber saturation point in the Western world, and that the budgets of a couple of years ago are no longer sustainable.

But rather than wallow, the atmosphere at the event was one of emerging cautiously into a new and uncharted, but very hopeful new era – what analyst Johanna Koljonen called in an opening session the ‘last hurrah of the old world order’. The industry, in Scandinavia at least, seems primed to use its resources to make perhaps fewer, perhaps cheaper, but more exciting, ambitious and unique scripted television programs than ever before.

Gothenburg embraces fewer, bigger drama series

Hard times do of course persist for many in the production world. But quality over quantity, for the most part, can’t be a bad thing? Janne Vakio, Commissions & Content Development Manager MTV Finland, said that the broadcaster was now refocusing on ‘bigger, fewer, better’ series.

He certainly wasn’t lying if the jaw-dropping trailer he cued up for upcoming war drama Conflict (pictured) was anything to go by. The seriously impressive looking production depicts a newly elected female PM of Finland and the wider world react to an unknown military unit taking control of a peaceful seaside town. The series looked premium to the core, and certainly relevant in a Europe currently plunged into horrifying armed conflict.

Local creativity and acquisitions to prosper post-Peak Drama

Dunja Vujović, Head of Development TV4 Sweden, meanwhile was grateful for how the hectic past few years has honed the skills of now battle-hardened creatives: “We are really thankful for peak TV, we’ve all levelled up so much in the past couple of years, and we’re excited to make some more really amazing television.” Synnøve Hørsdal of Norway’s Maipo Films, and others we spoke to privately throughout the week, said one good effect of the commissioning downturn for local productions was the end of the ‘brain drain’. With fewer local creatives pulled away from their home territories for international productions, local series will benefit from being able to assemble elite teams of the best writers, directors and producers each territory has to offer.

If that wasn’t enough, it was also suggested that while commissioning has undoubtedly levelled off, a persisting hunger for content will mean acquisitions continue to grow. Summing up well the chaos of peak drama as it fades into the rear view mirror, TV2 Head of Drama, Alice Sommer, channeled Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”.

New co-pro alliances for a bright future

A strong tradition in the Nordics, and another positive takeaway from the conference, was the health of the co-production market in the region.

After revealing its initial slate at Content London late last year, the New8 – the newly-forged co-commissioning club between ZDF (Germany), NPO (The Netherlands), VRT (Belgium), SVT (Sweden), DR (Denmark), YLE (Finland), RÚV (Iceland) and NRK (Norway) was in town for TV Drama Vision. The first title set to debut from the partnership is intimate and emotive midwife drama Push (pictured). That series sits in a ‘bouquet’ of initial commissions from the group which also includes supersized, international series about everything from Big Pharma (Elixir) to the evacuation of Afghanistan (Kabul).

Indeed, in the following ‘Inside the Web of Euro Financing’ session, Wildside’s Karin Annell said it was true that currently the easiest project to finance are either the big international pieces, or the smaller, cheaper and very ‘local’ productions, with little room for midsize ‘glocal’ productions currently.

The New8 wasn’t the only supergroup in the spotlight. Also hosting a session was the ‘Scandi Alliance’ of TV2 Denmark, TV2 Norway and TV4 Sweden. Formed in September and inspired by the now well-established ‘Alliance’ of France TV, Rai and ZDF, the group’s initial ambitions are a little humbler than the New8’s – with a first mission of co-producing a large-scaled event series to debut in 2026. Seventy series were submitted to be considered for the commission, with the winner to be decided soon.

Time to go age agnostic to attract Gen Z?

As expected, the conference also grappled with how to attract young audiences. Of course, it’s important to commission series which honestly reflect the authentic youth experience. France Television’s Sened Dhab for example in the ‘Cracking the Code of Gen Z’ session discussed the amazing success of the French adaptation of Skam, which came to an end last year after a staggering 12 seasons! But the prevailing message was to just make good TV – regardless of the age of the characters depicted.

Henriette Marienlund from DR highlighted that, surprisingly, the Danish pubcaster’s most watched series among Gen Z’ers last year was gritty Sofie Gråbøl-starring thriller Prisoner – certainly not a ‘youth drama’ by any stretch. She suggested that the prison drama’s appeal to curious young viewers was allowing entry into a ‘forbidden’, hidden world.

Banijay’s Filmlance International meanwhile showcased anticipated fantasy drama Ronja the Robber’s Daughter (pictured). Set to debut on Netflix later this year, and based on the beloved Swedish fantasy book, a major part of the series’ DNA is its built in cross-generational appeal. Producer Bonnie Skoog, said the pricey production was envisaged from its inception as a co-viewing tent pole – ‘we looked to create something we wanted to watch with out kids’. TV2 Denmark also highlighted its strong cross generational strategy, with family hits like charming comedy Seaside Hotel, and disaster drama Families like Ours – about a family fleeing a catastrophic flood.

‘Punk’ political satire Power Play takes festival prize

Power Play, REInvent Studios

Emerging as the winner from an exceptionally strong field of nominees, Norwegian political satire Power Play won the Nordisk Film & TV Fond Prize, bagging €20,000. ‘Based on truth, lies and poor memory’, the series tells the story of Gro Harlem Bruntland, a young doctor who in the late 70s stumbled into the treacherous world of politics, eventually becoming Norway’s first female Prime Minister. Shot in innovative ‘punk’ mockumentary style, the series is punctuated with talking head current-day interviews with events’ protagonists. Distributed by REInvent Studios.

The other nominees were aforementioned Danish prison thriller Prisoner, Finnish cruise ship sinking drama Estonia, Icelandic family power struggle saga Descendants, and feisty Swedish mother-daughter comedy Painkiller.

Richard O’Meara

Richard graduated from the University of Manchester with a degree in History in 2013, and also has a post-graduate diploma in Journalism.

Richard is responsible for ensuring all of K7’s wider output offers as much insight as possible. Richard also heads up the scripted team at K7 Media, overseeing all bespoke, weekly, and monthly scripted output. He also edits the World Drama, Latin America, UK Comedy and Drama, and North American scripted reports, as well as the Scriptlist showreel. Additionally, Richard travels to markets and meets with clients.

Outside of work, Richard likes travelling, checking out live music, and keeping active– he currently enjoys cycling and indoor climbing.