Norway has the highest annual subscription video on demand revenues in the world per broadband household. The United States comes second, followed by Denmark, Sweden and Finland. The excellent Nordic Media Summit, hosted by Danish company Xstream, heard how online television and video is advancing in Scandinavia, led by Netflix.
The Nordic region and is currently the largest international market for Netflix, comparable in subscriber numbers to the United Kingdom.
Since launching in the Nordic countries in October 2012, Netflix has been making steady progress. Netflix now has over five million subscribers in the region, according to estimates presented by Ben Keen of IHS Markit, who forecasts that will reach six million by 2020.
Of course, in absolute numbers, there are some 46 million Netflix subscribers in the United States, and just under 34 million internationally.
After an initially weak start, HBO now has approaching two million subscribers in the Nordic region, and is forecast to reach three million by the end of the decade.
Overall, there are now over 18 million subscribers to online television and video services in the Nordic region, with Netflix as the largest single provider. However, traditional television service providers, such as Telenor with Canal Digital, still capture over 90% of the revenue from such services.
Netflix would rank third by subscribers in comparison to pay-television operators in Europe, behind Liberty Global and Sky. Amazon would rank eighth, ahead of Deutsche Telekom and BT.
Netflix is also spending more on programming globally than any other producer in Europe, apart from Sky, which invests heavily in sports rights. Netflix is spending far more than the BBC. Perhaps more surprisingly, Amazon is not far behind the BBC in programming spend, and ahead of Discovery and HBO.
The recently announced deal with Liberty Global shows that pay-television providers are become best ‘frenemies’ with Netflix. Worldwide, 28 pay-television providers now have active partnerships in place with Netflix, including Comcast. Sky has yet to embrace Netflix.
Telenor hinted that it will launch an over the top television service. Mikael Grennäs, the business development manager for television at Telenor, pointed out that telcos have deep pockets and suggested that there is no complete online television service in the Nordic region, where the majority of viewing is still to the main traditional television channels.
Bjarne Myklebust, the head of IP distribution at the Norwegian public service broadcaster NRK, observed that nearly a quarter of Norwegians use an online television or video service daily, rising to 40% of those aged between 15 and 29. Netflix is the market leader. As a result, drama viewing on traditional television is falling.
A racy online youth drama series, Skam, which translates as Shame, has enabled NRK to address a younger audience. It reaches over 600,000 viewers, which is more than the total number of teenagers in Norway. Now in its third series, it is available for international distribution.
The Nordic Media Summit celebrated the particular characteristics of the region but also revealed the appetite for international programming from new entrants like Netflix.
With big budgets to produce programmes for global distribution, the appeal of original drama series from Netflix and Amazon is evident, but viewers also want to see their own culture and language reflected on screen.