Key International Markets: Distribution and Consumption of Danish TV Drama Series in Germany and the UK

Susanne Eichner, Andrea Esser

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    During the 2010s Danish TV drama series unexpectedly achieved global 'success'. A vital role in their journey from this small European country into the world is occupied by the German and British TV markets. The popular and critical acclaim of Forbrydelsen (The Killing, 2007-2012) in the UK (BBC Four, 2011-2012) opened the door for Scandinavian series to television markets around the world. Its UK success was read as evidence of quality. Equally important, it suggested the (hitherto uncharted) existence of an international audience for TV drama series from non-Anglophone countries, even in subtitled form. To understand the rise of Danish TV drama in the global market, this chapter argues, we must go further back. Before The Killing gained global visibility through its success in the UK, the German market played a path breaking role. Triggered by two international Emmys for Rejseholdet (Unit One, DR, 2000-2004) and Nikolaj og Julie (DR, 2002) in 2002 and 2003 respectively, a close collaboration developed between the Danish and German public service broadcasters, DR and ZDF. The collaboration led to sustained financial investment from ZDF, raising the production value of Danish TV drama and consequently its appeal beyond the country’s borders. The British market subsequently acted as a shop window, raising awareness globally.

    This chapter examines how serialised Danish TV drama—particularly through The Killing, Borgen (DR, 2010-2013) and the Swedish-Danish co-production Bron/Broen (The Bridge, DR/SVT, 2011-2018)—entered these two instrumental markets in very different ways and was helped by each in different ways. The notable differences between the two markets explored reveal the multiplicity of factors determining programme imports, of trade relations, and of the audiences of imported, in this case Danish, TV drama. Furthermore, the two case studies reveal the increasingly transnational character of TV production, distribution and consumption. Global lessons to be learned are that cultural flows are highly complex, and so are their explanations.

    © 2020, The Author(s). The attached document (embargoed until 05/08/2022) is an author produced version of a chapter published in DABISH TELEVISION DRAMA: GLOBAL LESSONS FROM A SMALL NATION uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationDanish Television Drama:
    Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Lessons from a Small Nation
    EditorsEva Novrup Redvall, Pia Majbritt Jensen, Anne Marit Waade
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2020


    • Transnational TV drama
    • cultural flows
    • programme distribution
    • circulation
    • Germany
    • UK
    • TV markets
    • Danish TV drama series

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