NRK launches marathon TV voyage

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After months of planning and technical preparation, state broadcaster NRK went live Thursday night with its marathon coverage of a Hurtigruten voyage from Bergen north to the line’s turnaround point in Kirkenes. Viewers will be able to follow every minute of the trip on NRK’s channel 2, until it ends on Wednesday morning.

Cameras started rolling when the Hurtigruten ship MS Nord-Norge sailed from Bergen on June 16. The cameras weren't due to be turned off until the ship docks in Kirkenes on June 22, with the entire voyage airing live on NRK2. PHOTO: NRK

All told, the broadcast will amount to more than 8,000 minutes, or 134 hours of continuous coverage as NRK cameras mounted all around the Hurtigruten ship MS Nord-Norge chart the five-day voyage. NRK officials hope the program will be registered in the Guinness book of world records as the world’s longest documentary program.

NRK isn’t just mounting the production to set a world record, though. The marathon broadcast, announced last spring, is rooted in the surprising success of another NRK project that mounted cameras on board the train line between Bergen and Oslo in 2009. That show, lasting a relatively paltry seven hours, attracted more than a million Norwegians (roughly a fifth of the country’s entire population) and made NRK realize that the concept could be popular indeed.

NRK has mounted cameras all over the vessel, which is sold out. Passengers have been told live filming will be underway during the trip. PHOTO: NRK

Some of those watching the train line program sat through the entire seven hours, saying later they were mesmerized by the slow pace of the show, the scenery rolling by and, not least, the feeling of actually being on board the train. Now NRK hopes millions of others will also enjoy the feeling of being on board a Hurtigruten ship, even if it likely is humanly impossible to watch the entire broadcast from start to finish.

The “reality TV” aspects of the project may also appeal to viewers, and Hurtigruten officials, through their cooperation with NRK, clearly think it presents promotional opportunity. There’s a risk involved, though, if the voyage is met by bad weather, obscured scenery or passengers getting seasick, as sometimes occurs on board a coastal voyage in northern climes.

The production is costing around NOK 3 million (USD 545,000) with the state broadcaster picking up the entire tab, but NRK officials think it’s worth it, as a sheer TV viewing experience. NRK has also sold portions of the program to Swedish state broadcaster SVT, Danish radio and broadcasters in Finland and the Færøe Islands. NRK will also offer the broadcast over its website, www.nrk.no (external link, in Norwegian), “for the whole world to enjoy,” according to Silje Marie Lien of NRK.

Follow along with the voyage via NRK’s web site here. (external link)

The project has raised some eyebrows in the broadcasting world. The director of Mediavision in Sweden, Marie Nilsson, wondered whether NRK felt a need to teach Norwegians about their country’s geography, or whether NRK had trouble filling its air time on NRK2.

“This sounds very unusual, and something that definitely should (just) be broadcast over the Internet,” Nilsson told newspaper Aftenposten. She said the decision to devote five days of air time to it on NRK’s TV channel 2, must have been made “because you’re so wealthy in Norway.”

Others think NRK will succeed with the venture. “Norway is a very special country and NRK has a lot of competence with this kind of thing aimed at Norwegian media habits,” media consultant Lasse Gimnes told Aftenposten. “They may hit the nail on the head with this.”

For more on a Hurtigruten voyage, click here.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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