Opinion: Mapping the Nordic market & what it means to Formatland

Married At First Sight

Consolidation has been rife across the industry over recent months, so who better than TBI’s resident format expert Siobhan Crawford to pin down exactly who owns what & what it means for the rest of the industry

Mergers and acquisitions. It is not just Banijay’s favourite hobby, it is happening on all fronts.

So many questions. But has anyone asked what it actually means because I am is a girl who likes to understand what it means… with numbers. So, let’s map the Nordics and see the impact the mergers are having on the production industry and by result, what it means in the international format market. And no I won’t be naming all the indies, do your own homework!

The big guns

Norway, Denmark, Sweden and slightly separate Finland are a strong format creation and acquisitions block, much like Benelux. The potential of another Married At First Sight from the region means we are constantly paying attention. Each broadcaster is commissioning originals and, historically, Denmark has been the stronger exporter. There are fewer new companies forming in the Nordics, however.

The big players are mostly here and the wave of recent M&As is happening in this region more than anywhere else. The broadcaster appetite for foreign content, the expertise in formats and the tough market conditions in Denmark all play a role.

  • Banijay: the heart of Banijay, the home of Nordisk. Currently six Danish, three Finnish, three Norwegian and five Swedish companies.
  • Fremantle: in 2021, the NENT acquisition added 12 companies to the group, now three Danish, two Finnish, five Norwegian, four Swedish.
  • Warner: The recent news that Sweden, Denmark and Norway will all be under one Swedish roof is a surprise in the market, yet to be actioned, plus the Finnish office.
  • Monday: The group that has grown under the radar but now landed on the stage with it’s own distributor: six Norwegian, four Danish, one Finnish and with ambitions to finish the puzzle in Sweden.
  • Red Arrow: Sometimes you only need one – Snowman is that one in Denmark.
  • ITV Studios: A strong producer with a physical presence in all four countries, with an additional two prodcos in Denmark.
  • Mediawan: The French group are currently present in Finland only.
  • BBC Studios: The recent STV acquisition is giving BBC an instant on-the-ground presence, re-branding announced, Nordisk be-gone and STV content rolled into BBCS immediately. Present in Denmark predominantly, plus Norway and Sweden, meaning Finland must be on the shopping list.

The breakdown

And the rest? What is the unscripted indie landscape like?

  • Denmark: Circa seven small-to-medium independent prodcos work within the format space – but reduce it down as only 50% of these acquire foreign content.
  • Sweden: Circa seven again, and small-to-medium again too, but only a maximum of three are acquiring content and you can acquire content for distribution from only one of those.
  • Norway: Leading the charge in independent production right now – we have circa nine very small to medium companies. You can acquire content for distribution from four of them, however only maybe one company is looking to actively acquire – the rest are focused on local ideas.
  • Finland: there is activity here that we are not seeing in the rest of the Nordics as new companies form with known faces, but that still only takes us to five prodcos with only one of those acquiring international. And only one or two of those have content for distribution, mainly the gaze is inside Finland.

Bottom line

Right now, the M&A landscape means distributors have far fewer clients than ever before but this is also due to the ‘internal gaze’ of prodcos. We should see less Nordic content hitting the market, groups will control many new launches and the rest will be pubcasters’ internal formats.

The groups will be optioning the majority of the third party formats in the international market because the local prodcos are focused on own-content (hyper-local content is one ratings strategy to beat formats).

So when the pre-MIP pitches happen, you can understand why the groups are getting the invites and fewer indie distributors. I think the impact of the ‘internal gaze’ is important here though – many prodcos deliver to their local audiences first and can then opportunistically try to export content, but the risk of over over-localisation (or under-formatting) is high.

The ‘local is best’ indies vs the catalogued-up groups are reliant on the broadcasters – a reason why quotas are in place to balance out the love. But can the quotas still hold when there is a 2:1 ratio of groups to indies? Everyone has to eat.

Siobhan Crawford is co-founder at Glow Media and has worked in the format business for almost two decades at firms including DRG, Zodiak, Banijay and Primitives

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