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Pia Majbritt Jensen

Danish Drama Series: An Export Success Cradled on the Domestic Market

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Despite the last twenty years’ intense competition on the Danish TV market and the resulting channel proliferation and dispersal of audiences, the license fee-funded public service broadcaster DR has managed to create and sustain a Sunday evening slot that attracts “the entire nation”. With an average audience share of no less than 60 (peaking at almost 90) per cent of viewers, drama series broadcast in the slot between 8pm and 9pm beckons a substantial part of the nation, Sunday after Sunday. Subsequently, many of this slot’s recent series, such as Forbrydelsen [The Killing], Borgen and Bron/Broen [The Bridge], have begun to export widely. Both Forbrydelsen and Bron/Broen have sold into more than 150 territories around the world, and Borgen into approximately 80. This paper will explain how this unprecedented boom in the export of DR’s drama series has been conceived and cradled on the domestic market over the past 20 years. We shall do so by investigating the historical development of DR’s Drama Division and the series’ domestic viewing profiles and settings.
According to theories on media economy, media geography and media reception, non-Anglophone audio-visual content rarely exports outside its ‘geo-linguistic’ region – in Denmark’s case the Nordic region – because audiences in other regions would be too far removed culturally and linguistically, and hence feel alienated. Accordingly, Denmark – with its miniscule language, public service broadcasting dominance and no recent history of world colonization or emigration – should remain an entirely insignificant player in the worldwide exchange of audio-visual content, and the case of Denmark’s rising recognition internationally is therefore particularly interesting.
So, why does DR punch above its weight in this unprecedented fashion?
Based on artistic production dogmas introduced by DR Drama in the mid-1990s and since then continuously developed, DR drama series have become a Sunday evening ‘institution’ that often gathers between 1.5 and 2.5 million Danes (out of a population of 5.4 million) across all demographics. The production dogmas meant that both aesthetic and production values, production processes were improved, and artistic ambitions heightened, and most DR series have since then won critical acclaim domestically as well as internationally, where they have won a number of prestigious awards, including several Emmys. The combination of extraordinary domestic ratings, high production values, critical acclaim and international prizes has undoubtedly led to the series’ current international success.
What is also interesting and may also have explanatory power is that despite the fact that viewers from all walks of the Danish society watch the series, some viewer profile characteristics do occur, and these characteristics are similar to what we see internationally. We find that women, older viewers and people with higher educational levels are overrepresented among the Danish viewers, which is in line with audience trends abroad. This indicates that even though ratings internationally naturally are more modest in the individual territories, the DR series have a potential and appeal on the global market similar to the domestic market.
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventIAMCR 2015: Hegemony or resistance - Montreal, Canada
Duration: 12 Jul 201516 Jul 2015


ConferenceIAMCR 2015

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  • IAMCR 2015

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation af a conference

  • IAMCR 2015

    Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesParticipation in or organisation af a conference

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