Notoriously hard-to-reach audience warms to DR’s major youth drama

The objective: to reach an audience who/that usually slips through the net of public service content. The weapon: a somewhat brutal action series – easily accessible, straightforward and subtly emotional. DR’s sports drama series aimed at young adults, Hooligan, got off to a promising start in Denmark and is now set to conquer the entire Nordic region. In Norway, NRK also believe in the combination of sport and drama.

Tittelbilde fra serien Hooligan fra DR

”Hooligan” gläntar på dörren till en stundtals våldsam miljö där inte alla är välkomna. Seriens målgrupp är uttalat unga män.
Foto: Jonas Berlin/Framegrab

In the series Hooligan, main character Mads sees his dreams of a pro football career crushed by serious injury. Upon meeting local football hooligan Lasse, Mads is drawn into a fascinating and violent world where only certain people are welcome.

Annual Report 2021

This article is part of the overview of the past year of Nordic collaboration.

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Hooligan is definitely a specially chosen show,” says Jonathan Herrik, Editor at DR Ung TV.

Above all, he refers to the target group: with Hooligan, DR specifically tackle an audience that the broadcaster, like its counterparts in other countries, have struggled to reach, i.e. younger men.

Jonathan Herrik notes that this objective runs through most of the series: not only in its style, but also its overall feel, choice of topics and tone.

”We’ve tried to adapt the drama to make it appeal to this audience, which is one that DR can’t usually access. The entire genre, with its brutal action and tales of brotherhood, is offbeat in itself. And that’s a very conscious decision on our behalf,” says Jonathan Herrik.

Perhaps DR have been inadequate with their offering for younger men, he reckons, as the discussion turns to why this group of consumers disregard the broadcaster’s content.

August Carter in DR’s Hooligan. Casting young faces, previously quite unfamiliar to the audience, is one way of highlighting new acting talents. Photo: Jonas Berlin/Framegrab 

Target viewers are active on social media

With Hooligan, DR can also see light in the tunnel. The specific target group has been able to find the series.

”In our streaming service, DRTV, we can’t identify the younger men among our viewing figures, but we see it on social media. There are a lot more young guys who interact with content – they tag each other, write comments and like postings. That’s a good indicator,” says Jonathan Herrik.

Even in more traditional channels, positive attention around the show has reached far and wide. Danish newspapers Politiken and Information featured encouraging reviews. But Jonathan Herrik would like to focus even more on another review.

”’M!’ is a magazine directed at the very core audience for this series, and they did a good review. That made me pretty sure that we got it right.”

Clarity is a winning concept

So when it comes to Hooligan, what exactly is it that falls into place? Jonathan Herrik dares to offer an analysis of the series’ recipe for success.

”This is an unpretentious story of male solidarity. It’s easily accessible, and it doesn’t attempt to be intellectually demanding. Its portrayal of emotions is very subtle… all this makes the show accessible.”

He is also keen to praise the actors, who are previously unknown talents.

DR has already decided that Hooligan will return for a second season. This is one step towards getting better at capturing the younger male audience.

This is an unpretentious story of male solidarity, says DR Ung TV’s editor Jonathan Herrik when asked to describe Hooligan. Photo: Private. 

All the same, Jonathan Herrik would like to stress that obviously it is crucial for DR to keep considering younger women aged 15 to 25, where so far things have been better than for male viewers in the same age group.

”We refer to these ’difficult’ guys as MI – modern individualists. They prefer to watch YouTube. In fact, they account for nearly 30 percent of the entire target segment, so we need to reach them and then retain them.”

Sports drama also works in other countries

With the other Nordic providers, sport is also a hot topic in their departments for youth content: for instance, NRK produce Champions, a football series aimed specifically at younger men.

”Actually, sport is something that we’ve also been quite poor at in a general sense. We’re good at showing the matches. But the culture that surrounds it, the dramas that take place away from the pitch – this is a context where younger women as well as men find themselves. So it’s completely logical that we look into this,” says Jonathan Herrik, adding that he’s pleased to have his Nordic colleagues close at hand:

”We see certain tendencies and trend lines that cross our borders. Our colleagues in the Nordic region are facing the same challenges as we do at DR, for instance competition from the big international players. The more we’re able to coordinate our efforts and join forces, the better our chances to succeed with these youth drama projects. I believe it is more important than ever that we position ourselves together,” Jonathan Herrik explains.

He adds that the Nordic (partners’) support for Hooligan means a lot, both financially and mentally.

”For one thing, the series reaches a wide audience and clearly has what you might call a universally Scandinavian appeal, and then there’s the fact that fiction is expensive compared to other genres. If you truly want to do something, and do it well, it will cost money.”

Need to refocus priorities

Christoffer Forssell, head of programme acquisition and cooperation with Svenska Yle, recognises the challenge of reaching younger men in particular.

”First of all, it’s a challenge because public service has to remain relevant to this target group, but in the long run, I believe it may also have implications for democracy if we lose an entire generation. I think that many people look at public service as something a bit boring and elitist, and quite simply old-fashioned. It doesn’t have to be that way, and I see a change in precisely such ventures as, for instance, Hooligan.

Christoffer Forssell reckons that to some extent, this is a matter of moving away from ”the traditional TV mindset, the academic approach” and the sort of things that feel distant to this particular target audience. For Svenska Yle, in concrete terms this also means freeing up resources from other content.

Head of acquisition and cooperation with Svenska Yle, Christoffer Forssell, recognises the challenge of reaching the Hooligan target audience. In the long run, this is a question of safeguarding public service relevance as a whole, he says. Photo: Ilmari Fabritius/Yle. 

In Hooligan, Christoffer Forssell sees a strong story with similarly strong characters.

”I like the raw feel, and based on what I’ve seen, the young guys do a brilliant job as actors,” he says.

More defined genres on the wish list

During 2022, Jonathan Herrik hopes to see more youth drama series that aim to catch on across the Nordic national borders. It has been possible for adult drama, so why not when it comes to series for young adults, he says.

”I also believe that we can get even better at looking into distinct genres. Profiling the genre implies a clear definition that is not only very important, but could enable us to hit the mark with this content worldwide.”

He mentions comedy and crime drama as examples (of this effect). Perhaps the next thing to make a big impact could be Nordic comedy fiction for young adults.

Christoffer Forssell supports this view.

”Above all, comedy for a young adult target audience is something we’re actively looking for at the moment,” he says.

But for now, Hooligan needs to keep a firm hold on its core audience that is playing hard to get.

”We have believed in this series all along”, says Jonathan Herrik.

FACTS: Hooligan

Youth drama with seven episodes (Season One)

Nordic co-production, Season One and Two between DR, NRK and Swedish Yle. Season Two is scheduled for completion by the end of 2022.

Fund support: DKK 900,000 for Season One (spring 2021), DKK 1,434,000 in production support for Season Two (autumn 2021).