EXCLUSIVE: Karin Lindström and Andreas Hjertø only joined Prime Video Nordics in 2021 but they’ve already hit the ground running, this week showcasing an 18-strong slate of originals and touting ambitious plans for growth in an exclusive interview with Deadline.
The Amazon streamer has been late to the original content game in the Nordics, with its first announcements coming earlier this year in the shape of reality format The Bridge and scripted political comedy Toppen. Four more unscripted show orders emerged today at a splashy Prime Video Presents event in Stockholm, Sweden.
Market leaders Netflix and local player Viaplay, whose parent company both Lindström and Hjertø have worked for over the years, have led the way on originals. Amazon relaunched Prime Video as a Nordic service in March 2021 to better position for growth. Despite its large catalogue and competitive price points, it had struggled to compete.
However, Lindström and Hjertø don’t see late entry as a disadvantage and instead suggest there’s plenty of space for Prime Video to sit alongside the more established players. “This is not a streaming war, it’s a streaming party — and the last guests are always the most interesting,” says Head of Nordic Originals Lindström playfully. “Is there enough space for us in a limited market? Yes, there is. For example, in the Swedish market we’ve seen consumers doubling screen time in the past 10 years. We’re a small team but we’re still growing.”
The pair should know: both are veterans of the Scandinavian content space, with Hjertø Head of Content and Program Director at Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT; now Viaplay Group) between 2014 and 2019 and a former indie boss, and Lindström a program boss at NENT predecessor MTG and CEO of Endemol Shine Nordics.
To mark the entry into original content, Prime Video Nordics today unveiled three commissions and provided first-looks at Toppen and The Bridge. Pranked, Good Luck Guys and Sweathearts are based on international formats from ITV Studios, Banijay and Fremantle, respectively, while LOL: Last One Laughing is the latest version of the Japanese comedian competition format that Prime Video has been rolling out internationally, with Banijay’s Jarowskij handling production. Read more about them here.
“The Nordic markets have a big passion for reality,” says Lindström. “International formats have done really well for us, so it is not a risk but still meet the local audiences’ expectations.” Hjertø notes the themes covered in the slate “feel very Nordic” – for example, Spanish survivalist format The Bridge sees contestants in the wilderness attempting to build their own route across water to secure a cash prize across, while Sweathearts sees lovebirds having dates in saunas, which are a huge part of Swedish and wider Scandinavian culture. Pranked also features cult footballer Nicklas Bendtner playing practical jokes on his celebrity friends.
Only LOL and Toppen will be seen beyond the Nordic region, with Lindström saying there is internal interest in whether German audiences or others in Europe would tune into see the Swedish version. Hjertø declines to expand on the nature of the format deals but says each one is struck on a “deal by deal basis.”
More deals are set to follow. While Lindström and Hjertø aren’t saying exactly how many new shows they’ll commission, they’ve just returned from a buzzy Mipcom Cannes, where they had 16 meetings in 48 hours. Lindström predicts likelihood of an international recession will lead to audiences demanding more unscripted formats, noting that the global crisis of 2008 was a major factor in the success of Got Talent and led to the launch of European shows such as Eternal Glory. “Now is the chance to bring out new feel-good formats,” she says. “People need to rest from the world and to get entertainment.”
Prime Video also unveiled a major film deal with Copenhagen-based Nordisk Film today, bringing the likes of John Wick: Chapter 4, Hunger Games prequel Ballad of Song Birds and Snakes and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans to the service from next year, along with several buzzy regional titles such as Den Första Julen I Skomakergata and Bamse and The World’s Smallest Adventure, which will sit alongside MGM films and Prime Video’s flagship U.S. shows such as The Boys, Good Omens and The Grand Tour, whose recently released Scandinavian special has been a local hit, according to Lindström.
“I don’t know every Nordic movie deal ever done but this one of the biggest,” says Hjertø. “For the first time, you’ll get all the Nordic movies across the four countries. It’s an investment in kids content, library and all of the theatrical releases. It also gives Nordisk the opportunity to continue and increase investment in the Nordics, not only in Denmark and Norway, where they’re already incredibly successful, but also to widen their movie slate in Finland and Sweden as well. In combination with everything else we’re doing, we see this our commitment to the region.”
Notable in Prime Video’s slate is that there will be several Danish originals. Denmark is currently in the middle of a commissioning crisis that has seen streamers such as Netflix stop ordering new shows in the country throughout 2022 due to rising costs, a planned government streaming levy of 6% and a stalemate with artists union Create Denmark. Further muddying the water is a bitterly fought Danish election, which is being held next week.
“We’re still doing a lot business in Denmark,” says Hjertø. “Obviously, there are some issues there, which are worrying. From a streaming point of view, we want predictability and long terms views, and it’s a marketplace where we don’t know what’s going to happen.
“The last ten years have been a fantastic time for Danish content, with content like The Bridge [the DR drama] being exported all over the world. We’ve come in and are being really vocal about our investment in the Nordics, so we’re asking if the 6% tax is really what the Danish production environment needs. Of course, we’re used to this – we have it in France and other countries and we will operate regardless.”
Lindström says Prime Video will still look to establish itself as “the best place for the best talent in front of and behind the camera, so we need to find the best way forwards. We’re in daily dialogue with Danish producers about the great stories they have. If we believe something should be on Prime Video, we want to make that work.”
She notes the local talent featuring in Prime Video’s originals should help producers understand where they are looking. Present at today’s event were stars such as Eva Röse, Edvin Törnblom, Louise Nordahl, Özz Nûjen, Jens Hultèn, Ellen Bergström, Niclas Lij, Jasmine Gustafsson and Danny Saucedo, who along with hosting Pranked‘s Swedish version has also been announced as Prime Video Sweden’s first brand ambassador.
Hjertø adds being new to the market allows Prime Video to be flexible in its deal structures, which presents producers with interesting opportunities, and notes co-productions could become a key factor as there is “a very unique way of creating high quality content at reasonable prices in the Nordics.”
“We’re just getting started and we have a long-term commitment to this region,” he concludes. “We’re launching these 18 originals now and announcing the biggest local movie deal that’s ever been done in the Nordics. We’re here to stay and we believe in this region.”