Join the Fund's newsletter!

Get the latest film & TV news from the Nordics, interviews and industry reports. You will also recieve information about our events, funded projects and new initiatives.

Do you accept that NFTVF may process your information and contact you by e-mail? You can change your mind at any time by clicking unsubscribe in the footer of any email you receive or by contacting us. For more information please visit our privacy statement.

We will treat your information with respect.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.


What do Nordic doc streamers want?

Viaplay, HBO Max Nordic, VGTV Norway and Síminn in Iceland have unveiled their doc strategy at a webinar co-organised by Nordisk Film & TV Fond and Nordisk Panorama.

What are the new streaming kids on the block looking for, and what new opportunities do they offer producers?

These questions and more were answered by HBO Max Nordics In-House Producer of Original Programming Ruth Reid, Viaplay’s Head of Documentary Nicole Nielsen Horanyi, Icelandic streamer Síminn’s VP of Content Pálmi Guðmundsson, and VGTV Norway’s Head of Acquisitions Andreas Fay.

The webinar held May 25 was moderated by Cecilia Lidin. It was a continuation of last year’s hybrid Nordisk Panorama Town Hall, part of the Fund’s ‘Audiovisual Collaboration 2021’ initiative.

To watch the full webinar scroll down or, CLICK HERE.

Opening up the online session was Stockholm-based Ruth Reid, who explained that she works in a small commissioning team together with Hanka Kastelicová, HBO Max’s’ VP of Documentaries, Annelies Sitvast, Head of Unscripted and Christian Wikander, VP, Commissioning Editor of Original Production HBO Max Nordic.

Since the Discovery-Warner Media merger in April, the integration of HBO Max and Discovery+ into one mega-streaming platform is still “in early days” says Reid, but HBO Max which kickstarted its European rollout in October 2021 with the Nordics and Spain, is steadily adding European territories.

Within this context, Reid reminded that Warner Bros. Discovery’s DTC service has been beefing up its documentary content for almost two decades and is now “moving towards doc series in local territories. In fact, we only look for series right now,” Reid clarified.

Detailing her commissioning strategy, the streaming executive said the four pillars of HBO Max Originals in EMEA territories take in: local first, broad appeal, distinctive storytelling and diverse slate.

Reid said her doc slate is restricted in volume to 4-5 projects a year -whatever the format. Her slate has focused so far on true crime - such as the Swedish five-part series Pray, Obey, Kill (Knutby; i blind tro) which launched last April, but it has now expanded into society, comedy, history among others. “Please bring your most fabulous projects that can shine on HBO Max, something locally anchored, whatever the genre and length. We also like new voices,” Reid underscored.

The application process is based on an open-door policy, a 5-7 page presentation, a detail of the underlining themes, approximate budget, timeline, reference series among others.

For producers, the upsides of working with HBO Max includes getting their projects fully-financed - with small seed investment for development - a turnaround on submissions ranging from 4 to 6 weeks on average, an emphasis on quality - with budgets cut accordingly, a close collaboration to the creative team during the full process, and access to HBO Max’s global footprint.


What do Nordic doc streamers want?

Meet The Nordics Webinar / PHOTO: Nordisk Panorama

Nicole Nielsen Horanyi stressed her recent arrival at Viaplay - only four months ago after more than 15 years of experience as doc filmmaker. As Head of Docs, she commissions non-scripted content in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Poland so far, but Viaplay is present in 11 territories and will be present in 16 countries by 2023, she reminded.

In each territory, she relies on executive producers who feed her with projects, but she is responsible for greenlighting the projects. “Each country has its own culture, political climate, therefore the doc intake differs from country to country,” she explained. “We work on two levels: on super local stories and once in a while on more international stories for the global market.”

Regarding her editorial strategy, Horanyi said her focus is on high-quality feature length docs and series of 3 to 6 episodes. In her selection process, she looks closely at the filmmaker/producer team, strong Nordic or European directors with a signature to standout on the market, and projects with high cinematic value. Genres can vary from hybrids, drama docs, true crime, historical docs, bios, investigative journalism. “We look into mixing genres, pushing boundaries, and the focus right now is on culture, sport, politics, society and climate,” said Horanyi.

In terms of financing, Viaplay supports development and can either fully commission or co-produce content. “I’m open to all set-ups to finance projects. We just want the best stories, to be the best partners for producers, therefore I offer great artistic freedom and respect filmmakers and producers’ work process,” Horanyi emphasised.

Volume-wise, around 40 docs a year are being commissioned across Viaplay’s footprint and more are yet to come, according to the Nordic streaming executive.

Horanyi sees her platform as a top partner to Nordic producers, keen to split rights with them, although securing worldwide rights is Viaplay’s priority. The Nordic streamer is also flexible regarding windowing, and open to a short theatrical premiere and festival run prior to streaming launch, depending on the project.

Meanwhile Pálmi Guðmundsson, VP of Content at Iceland’s Síminn group, reminded webinar viewers, that the leading telco group covers TV, landline, internet, mobile, SVOD, TVOD, free to air, and is the number one local streamer in Iceland.

Guðmundsson heads a small team of commissioners, and all content is outsourced. His focus is on scripted drama, comedy, factual and docs and within the docu genre, the Icelandic executive said he is flexible, and even “happy to be controversial”.

Recent docs commissioned by Síminn include Raise the Bar directed by Guðjón Ragnarsson for Sagafilm, and upcoming projects include Hanging Out featuring US photographer, actress and muse to rock stars Carinthia West. “As a summary, documentaries are a great spice to our slate,” concluded Guðmundsson.

Andreas Faye for his part underlined VGTV’s top space on the Norwegian documentary market, as buyer of more than 100 features a year, both Norwegian and international. His focus is on high-quality commercial films, festival award-winning films to build integrity, the core audience and the brand’s position in Norway. Around 80% of films are acquired once completed, and 20% are pre-buys, often picked up at pitching forums.

Since joining Nordisk Film & TV Fond as partner in 2020, VGTV has strengthened its Nordic focus, with five docs acquired the first year and 8 the following year. We’re going in the right direction,” noted Faye.

Genre-wise, the video spin-off of the leading Norwegian tabloid newspaper Verdens Gang (VG), is looking for “content that trigger debates, that is engaging, shareable, personal, edgy, enlightening, entertaining and creates headlines”.

Fay gave as an example the young audience-skewed Norwegian doc Young and Afraid (Nattebarn), which picked up the audience award at the last Norwegian International Film Festival in Haugesund and turned into a major hit on VGTV, thanks notably to a heavy SOME campaign.

“We will experiment more with content in the future, putting content not in the traditional outlets but where the audience is, and branding VG to viewers’ preferred platforms,” said Faye.

Asked by Lidin to underline his strengths on the Norwegian market, Fay said he is close to the local industry, he can act fast and is keen to sustain the local doc industry as a whole, by suggesting projects to competitors, if necessary.

Quizzed about their policy regarding rights and windowing, all panellists said they are flexible, both in terms of length of exclusivity and first or second window deals.

Looking ahead, Horanyi stressed the fantastic new opportunities for doc filmmakers with streamers merging the artistic with the commercial, and redefining the financing model by offering a great alternative to the old public funded [financing] system. “In that sense, this is a new era for documentaries,” she claimed.

Faye added that greater competition on the docu market “drives the industry forward”, and streamers are “bringing a new dynamic on the market, both creatively and financially”, he stated.