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Report Highlights Changing Patterns in Nordic TV Viewing

Audiences in Denmark are watching more TV shows online, according to a new report by the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR). Eva Novrup Redvall investigates.

Streaming has become mainstream in Denmark. That is one of the main conclusions of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation’s (DR) 2013 annual report on developments in the media landscape, which was published this month.

Even though DR’s latest high-end TV drama series Arvingerne/The Legacy has had impressive audience figures on Sunday nights since premiering in January, overall viewers of broadcast TV declined by 8% between 2012 and 2013. Danes now watch an average of 3 hours of traditional television on a daily basis, but particularly younger audiences find streaming as popular as traditional broadcast TV, pointing to a probable further decline in the years to come.

House of Cards. The second seasons of the Netflix show has gained significant Danish press attention.

House of Cards. The second season of the Netflix show has gained significant Danish press attention.

The number of Netflix subscribers in Denmark is a clear sign of the rapid changes in how people watch television. International on-demand streaming services like Netflix and HBO Nordic established themselves in Denmark in late 2012. Since then, Netflix has acquired more than 400,000 subscribers among the country’s 5.6 million inhabitants, and Netflix is now the sixth largest TV channel in Denmark measured in viewing time.

Focus on flexibility

Currently, Netflix audiences in Denmark – as in the rest of the world – are enthusiastically watching the second season of House of Cards, a political thriller staring Keven Spacey. The premiere gained significant Danish press attention – the newspaper Politiken even sent a journalist into ‘the war room’ of the Netflix headquarters in Los Gatos, California, to file a special report of the excitement at the exact moment when the series was launched.

According to a report by the reviews website Epinion for Arkena, a media services provider, audiences foresee watching much more television on the internet in the future: 60% of Danish TV viewers said they would be watching TV online within the next three years, compared with the current level of 27%. The flexibility offered by the online viewing experience where audiences can choose when and where to watch was cited as the main reason for this shift.

 Three types of TV drama viewing

While audiences appreciate the flexibility of online viewing, DR’s annual report does, however, suggest viewers prefer watching different content in different ways, especially when it comes to television drama. The report identifies three different types of TV drama viewing: traditional viewing, relaxed viewing and engaged viewing.

The traditional viewing experience is centred on being together as a family when watching series on broadcast television, particularly Danish high-end fare such as Forbrydelsen/The Killing or UK crime series such as Midsomer Murders. The social aspect is important in the traditional viewing experience, but viewers are quite concentrated on what is happening on screen.

That is not the case during relaxed viewing, where particularly younger audiences use US sitcoms and crime dramas like CSI as light entertainment, while simultaneously focusing on other screens or activities. This kind of viewing is also mostly broadcast TV, while a great deal of the engaged viewing is streaming.

The engaged viewing is marked by a high level of concentration, while following series like Breaking Bad or House of Cards. Engaged viewers watch episodes chronologically and often catch several episodes in a row as binge watching. Streaming is thus an excellent platform for this kind of viewing, which is most common among younger audiences.

Streaming the mainstream?

In the DR report, the media researchers stress that, in principle, the same series can be watched as traditional, relaxed and engaged viewing, but patterns in the different ways of watching point to how the new streaming services offer a strong platform for the high-end US series, which have traditionally not done very well on Danish broadcast television. New players like Netflix and HBO Nordic now make these series easily accessible, challenging the fiction fare on broadcast television even if many viewers still prefer the sense of a more social and simultaneous experience from broadcast television.

Whereas The Legacy is thus currently reaching around 1.8 million viewers on Sunday nights plus the catch up viewing on the website dr.dk, the Danish press and social media are now full of reviews of House of Cards as well as the latest episodes of HBO series with a weekly release of episodes like True Detective, a US crime dram starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey.

Streaming has become mainstream. The question is whether streaming will gradually become the main platform for watching not only certain US quality series, but also the more mainstream fare.

Download a free copy (Danish only) of the DR’s annual report on developments in the media landscape 2013. Arkena Nordic Video Index Benchmark Report from January 2014 is also available to download (in English).

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