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, (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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  • Kevin Moreson

    This is absolutely without a doubt the finest video experience I have ever had in my 15 years of viewing the “WEB”. I have been watching for 4 hours now. I wish I had known this was going to be happening. It is a beautiful day here in Huntington Beach, California USA but I can’t tear myself away from the live feed of this cruise. This is the best public relations idea Norway has ever done (aside from the train video). My congratulations to everyone at NRK for a VERY well done job.
    Kevin Moreson
    Huntington Beach, California

  • Dougie Matheson

    I work on a Norwegian ship but despite this I have found the footage on NRK2 fantastic and addictive viewing. It has inspired me to take my own yacht on the same journey. Don’t listen to the Swedes they are just jealous!
    So good to see all the small boats and people on the shore waving the Norwegian flag. You are a proud nation.
    Dougie (from Scotland)on-board 7 Havila Stravanger

  • Loving the live coverage of the NordNorge. Did this trip in 2004 on Midnatsol and this has brought back some lovely memories. Prompted us to do the trip again although booking could be tricky after such a great promotion.
    Jeanette from Kelso, Scotland

  • Brilliantly executed and a superb promotional exercise for Norway – travelled on Nordlys in early May so felt a part of it all. Well done NRK, a gamble well worth taking – look at the reaction by the Norwegian people along the route, who loved being a part of it all, their enthusiasm almost increasing at each port,as the voyage continued. And didn’t Hurtigruten do well and show how professional they are, in all weathers, in all ports at all times. Wish I could park my car as easily as the officers berthed Nordnorge! Are we going to be able to purchase an edited version of it, please?
    Glenis from Windermere, Cumbria, UK