NRK cashes in on ‘slow TV’ format

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Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) has scored surprisingly strong ratings for its lengthy live broadcasts of everything from a coastal voyage to, most recently, a knitting marathon. Now NRK has sold its highly successful “slow TV” format to a US TV production firm that plans to copy NRK’s successful concept.

The Midnight Sun was among many attractions on NRK's documentary from aboard the Hurtigruten ship 'MS Nord-Norge.' PHOTO: NRK

Cameras mounted all over a Hurtigruten ship allowed NRK to produce its biggest “slow TV” hit so far, tracing an entire voyage of a Hurtigruten ship from Bergen to Kirkenes. Now the surprisingly successful and relaxing format is being sold abroad. PHOTO: NRK

“It’s always fun when one of our programs attracts attention,” Ole Hedemann, project leader at NRK, told newspaper Dagsavisen on Wednesday. “But it’s even more fun when we get signatures on paper.”

NRK’s first major “slow TV” program followed an entire journey of the popular train line over the mountains between Oslo and Bergen in 2009. Quiet, live pictures of the scenery passing by were supplemented with mood-setting Norwegian music and interviews, allowing viewers to feel like they were on board Bergensbanen without leaving their living rooms.

The program fascinated Norwegians, many of whom had trouble tearing themselves away from their TVs because they didn’t want to miss a single train stop. NRK’s follow-up was an even bigger hit, as it traced an entire five-day voyage on board one of Norway’s popular coastal vessels Hurtigruten, from Bergen to Kirkenes, in the height of the summer season.

That show united the country as people lined the shores and flocked to harbours along the route, holding banners with greetings to family and friends in the hopes they’d get on TV themselves. Even Queen Sonja got into the act, waving from aboard the royal yacht as the vessel sailed into Kirkenes. Coverage was aired around the clock, also prompting many viewers to stay up all night to enjoy the scenery and the Midnight Sun. Sales of tickets on board actual Hurtigruten ships boomed.

There also have been shows aboard the train line from Trondheim to Bodø and, most recently, non-stop coverage of a nationwide knitting marathon. More loom, now also in the US. NRK’s deal to share its format with LMNO Productions may result in shows like a drive along the US’ famed Route 66 or other journeys of national interest. Producers say they hope to “take the pulse of the cultural spirit” in the US.

One told The Hollywood Reporter that “in a world where everything goes so fast,” it’s “refreshing” to find something that’s so engaging that viewers don’t want to be torn away from it. NRK officials said production companies in other countries have also been in contact, from Canada, Ireland, Australia and Japan.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund