Key international markets: Distribution and consumption of Danish TV drama series in Germany and the UK

Susanne Eichner, Andrea Esser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


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.

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 statusAccepted/In press - 26 Feb 2019


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

Cite this

Eichner, S., & Esser, A. (Accepted/In press). Key international markets: Distribution and consumption of Danish TV drama series in Germany and the UK. In E. Novrup Redvall, P. M. Jensen, & A. M. Waade (Eds.), Danish Television Drama: : Global Lessons from a Small Nation Palgrave Macmillan.