Channeling more investment into originals - with a focus on English-language content

Head of drama Josefine Tengblad
Territory reach Sweden; Finland; Denmark; Norway
Content breakdown 80% acquisitions; 20% originals
2018 originals Modus (series two); The Conductor; Hamilton

As the US and UK continue to open up to subtitled drama, Nordic SVoD platforms such as C More are also experimenting with language, incorporating more English into their programmes than ever before in order to secure international sales.

Fully owned by Swedish media group Bonnier Broadcasting, parent of Swedish commercial channel TV4, two-year-old C More serves as a catch-up service for TV4 as well as a platform for acquired content and a growing slate of originals.

Since 2016, Bonnier has invested heavily in the platform’s originals strategy in the face of competition from Modern Times Group-owned Scandinavian SVoD service Viaplay and global streaming giant Netflix.

TV4 and C More drama boss Josefine Tengblad tells Broadcast that the business has widened the scope of its dramas to include more English-language content to secure financing from distributors.

“It is so much easier for distributors to then sell these shows outside of Sweden,” says Tengblad.

When the platform boarded the second series of TV4’s psychological thriller Modus, it managed to secure Sex And The City actor Kim Cattrall to play a US president who goes missing during a state visit to Sweden. The drama aired on BBC4 in the UK earlier this year.

“Cattrall had heard about the first series and wanted to get involved,” explains Tengblad. “She really wanted to play that particular role.

“We were one of the first ones to [incorporate English-speaking characters] with Modus 2, which is virtually half in English. Before we used to do series that were set in small towns in Sweden or Stockholm – we never mixed languages, but now, we are trying to get audiences used to it and we will see how it goes.”

Modus, which was solely commissioned by TV4 and C More, is distributed internationally by Fremantle Media International.

The platform is also working with a prominent British writer on an upcoming predominantly English- language series that is based on a Swedish book.

Meanwhile, forthcoming drama Hamilton – for which Babylon Berlin distributor Beta Film is handling international sales – will also be largely in English. Set for release in 2020, it will be C More’s most expensive drama to date.

“It is a Bourne-style spy thriller based on books that are hugely popular in Scandinavia and Germany. We have never put so much money into a series,” says Tengblad.

The service is also having “a lot of discussions” with US and UK partners such as ITV around international co-productions.

As a result of its ramped-up originals slate, the platform has cancelled the vast majority of its output deals with US studios, and instead buys programmes on a project-by-project basis.

“What we are doing is putting the money we used for acquisitions into originals,” says Tengblad.

Dramas such as BBC1 and AMC co-production The Night Manager and Sky’s Riviera are “still very important”, she says, “but what our audience really wants are original local series, so that has become the most important thing for us”.

C More’s drama budget is growing and it aims to commission five to seven dramas, comedy-dramas and thrillers a year, alongside two comedies.

The platform is also venturing into documentary series for the first time. “There’s a big range in the types of content we are going after,” says Tengblad.

Female-skewing content

The exec points out that C More is the fastest-growing SVoD in the Swedish market. He says it offers more content than rival Viaplay, more of which is female-skewing, and has a more female audience.

Meanwhile, Netflix is stepping into the arena of local Swedish-language originals. In September, the streaming giant ordered crime drama Quicksand, with The Bridge writer Camilla Ahlgren attached to write.

“We are all competing – it’s such a big struggle,” says Tengblad. “It’s also hard for the audience because there is so much out there.

“Previously when we commissioned a series, everyone knew about it – it was easy to reach out to the whole of Sweden. Now, we still can, but we have to be a lot more careful in marketing the show.”