Norse Mythology: The Wonders of the DR
The Success of the Danish Television Formula
MUSO examines the ins-and-out of the revered, ageless Danish Broadcasting Corporation
The Danes have long mastered the art of spellbinding yarns. Experts in storytelling, this peninsula has always teased the rest of the world with epic stories of murder, forlorn love and unfathomable adventures—you can thank Norse mythology for that. However now, in our highly wired world, the public is getting more than a glimpse of these stories.
The Danish formula of creating incredibly successful television lies in the hands of the culturally centralised revered institution, DR. The Danish Broadcasting Corporation, acting like the Danish equivalent to the BBC serves as a tent pole to Danish culture. DR a multi-facet, broadcasting cooperation, extends its branches into radio, television and Danish cultural life. Broadcasting Denmark’s first television channel in 1951, DR 1, the flagship channel, has evolved into a progressive institution, incentivising creative freedom and housing meticulously trained professionals. By 2014, Denmark has become a very connected country, with the average Dane watching an average of 2h 53mins of television a day. Despite the influx of Netflix and other streaming services, DR still holds it’s ground with Dr.dk being the fourth most frequented streaming site (after Google, Facebook and YouTube) in Denmark. DR’s media influence lays in the fact that Denmark, much like the United Kingdom, functions on the European Anglo-Saxon model of public broadcasting. This allows the institution to remain independent from government and commercial interests. DR thus receives contributions through television licenses in order to maintain their apolitical independence and promote creative freedom. It seems only a natural transition for it to become the focal point of Scandi-Noir.
This framework has allowed Denmark to move to the forefront of televised innovation, becoming increasingly in vogue. This newfound Danish self-awareness vis-à-vis television has pushed Danish television producers to claim esteemed positions in the awards season and high ratings abroad. However, despite the strong reception of Danish television hallmarks, this movement of Danish intellectualisation of television is still in the process of being translated abroad. An American remake of the “The Killing” has proven to be popular with the critics, averaging with 1.5 million viewers per episode, despite its choppy ride with the USA networks, switching between AMC to Netflix. “The Bridge”, the US remake of Denmark and Sweden’s “Broen/Bron”, faired less well after being canceled after two seasons due to bad ratings and despite the critical reception.
Elsewhere, the Danish version of “The Killing” has proved to be successful, especially in the United Kingdom, with over a million people tuning in for the third season on BBC Four, attracting more viewers than “Mad Men”. The influence of Scandi-Noir has not gone unnoticed within UK dramas, with shows such as “Broadchurch” and “The Fall” taking a page out of the bleak realism handbook of Scandi-Noir. With the cold and distant protagonist of “The Fall” portrayed by Gillian Anderson and “Broadchurch’s” muted tones and conflicted characters, one can see how the Danish influence has British viewers spell-bound. The success of Scandi-Noir in the UK could come down to its connecting cultural and historical tissue. Despite a different language, the case could be made that Danes and Brits share many similarities; their popular monarchy and Protestant tradition, grey weather and the BBC, the British version of the DR.
Despite the relative success of “The Killing” and “The Bridge” in America, recreating the Danish formula requires an exceptional amount of diligence, along with the help of a monopolising media industry. With the DR in place and Denmark having a small, homogeneous population the DR can attempt to cater to everyone, explaining why “The Killing” was an immense success. In 2014, DR surveyed that people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five, “The Killing” proved be the best show for ‘providing something to talk about.’ The season one finale attracted 38% of Danes with a television license, which is more than US households who watched the Super Bowl in 2014. One of the perks of having this centralised and liberalised system is a relatively low level of piracy for their main shows, “Borgen”, “Broen” and “The Killing”. To see the upload rate of these three latter shows, please check our infographic.
There is momentum behind Scandi-Noir. People are desiring more content, increasing it’s market value and expanding it’s international fan-base. During MipTV 2015, the Scandinavians embraced their spotlight and landed many successful deals. The BBC has already snapped up Danish drama “1864”, boasting many familiar faces plucked from “The Killing” and “Borgen”. Hoping that it’ll be able to echo the success of “Borgen” and “The Killing”, BBC4 has also picked up another DR series, “Follow the Money”, a contemporary economic thriller. Along with the market climate favouring the Scandinavians, the fan-base is also becoming more demanding. With events such as Nordicana in London and Scandinavia House in New York City (which has received over 1.5 million visitors since 2000) consistently showing Nordic films one can see that there is a clear investment being made into the Scandiphiles, who are outfitting themselves with “The Killing’s” Sarah Lund’s famous wool jumper.
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