No more guessing what young people want

The number of drama series for younger audiences is skyrocketing, as is Nordic cooperation on the shows. At the same time, it is becoming clearer what is needed to engage younger viewers.

Photo: DR / Valdemar Cold Winge Leisner

The youth drama genre has been steaming ahead in recent years. NRK plans no fewer than nine drama shows for young audiences in 2019, which is double the usual number.

There has also been tremendous growth in the number of titles for youth and young adults at Yle, and both DR and SVT are launching at least three shows each for younger audiences this year.

Meanwhile, productions are crossing borders and platforms to an unprecedented extent, and over the past 18 months, producers of drama for youth and young adults have joined forces, their new Nordvision team meeting twice a year since 2017. Commissioning Editor at NRK, Charlotte Myhrvold, is very enthusiastic about the collaboration in Nordvision’s team for youth drama and about the cooperation on concept development and feedback.

“It’s wonderful to see, within the young adult team at Nordvision, such growing appreciation of the other members’ drama productions, and that we are able to contribute to each other’s development and strategy,” says Charlotte Myhrvold.


“Young people need to feel they can cope, and we have to give them hope that life will be good.”
– Charlotte Myhrvold, Commissioning Editor at NRK


No language barrier – or is there?

The cooperation has also prompted considerable interest in broadcasting shows from the other Nordvision countries in their original languages. According to Myhrvold, language is no barrier for young Norwegian viewers.

“They grew up with Astrid Lindgren and Swedish children’s TV, and Danish doesn’t cause any great difficulties either.”

DR has noted that Norwegian youth drama in particular is thriving in the wake of Skam, and the first episode of a subsequent young adult drama series was streamed 120,000 times.

“These are very impressive figures, equivalent to those of a good DR3 documentary. But Danish drama is still the most popular,” says Christian Boye, publishing editor at DR TV. By comparison, the opening episode of DR’s Doggystyle was viewed 437,000 times. DR has also broadcast the Finnish Blind Donna and the Icelandic Ord mod ord.

“Viewing figures for both were more modest; we noticed a drastic drop in numbers as the series progressed. This is probably due to the language issue, because they’re excellent shows,” says Christian Boye, who has no Swedish youth drama to add to the comparison.

Youth and young adult drama is currently presented under the DR3 brand, although all series in this category on DR TV are Nordic.

“There’s no doubt that ‘Danish’ is a selling point. ‘Nordic’ might be, too, for all I know. But we shouldn’t call it ‘young people’s drama’. That will just scare the intended viewers off.”

Selection of Nordic youth drama in the pipeline:
SVT: De utvalda, Eagles and Festen
Swedish Yle: Badrumsliv and Vakuum
DR: Doggystyle 1+2, Paranoid and Lars og Nikki
NRK: 17, Nudes, 18 and Rådebank (under development) Yle: Nofilter (under development)

Yle experiments with Instagram

Johan Altonen, commissioner at Swedish Yle, notes that Nordic youth drama generally does well in Finland.

“There’s no guarantee that a Nordic series will be successful here just because it was a hit in its own country. But if a Norwegian series is popular in Sweden, for instance, it will usually do well here,” he says.

Swedish Yle is focusing on drama for a younger audience. “We’ll be launching Badrumsliv in the summer, and we have two more youth drama productions in the pipeline. We aim to offer at least one drama series every year,” Johan Altonen explains.

Yle’s Head of Drama, Jarmo Lampela, also has his eye on youth and young adults, and Yle is breaking new ground with investments in drama for social media platforms.

“We’ve introduced new drama content to platforms other than our own Areena, for instance Instagram dramas such as Karma and Goals360,” says Jarmo Lampela.

He reckons that Yle’s greatest challenge is to attract younger audiences who use other platforms.

“Our research indicates that audiences respect Yle’s content when they find it, but it’s a hard job to make them include it in their weekly or daily schedules,” says Yle’s Head of Drama.

NRK’s 17. Photo: NRK / Bendik Stalheim Møller

New analysis by NRK

There is an era before Skam and an era after.

The huge Norwegian hit paved the way for Nordic public service drama, targeting an audience that broadcasters considered almost impossible to win back from social media.

By now, the public service media agree on some of the basic conditions for producing great drama for youth and young adults. The younger viewers must be involved, and the producers must understand their needs. Gut feelings and guessing what young people want are a thing of the past.

“We can’t simply continue in the belief that we’re familiar with the needs of this target audience. We have to do some pretty thorough groundwork and talk with the target group,” Charlotte Myhrvold explains.

NRK recently analysed the younger audience again. This analysis shows that young people need space to unwind.

“Young people need to feel they can cope, and we have to give them hope that life will be good. They need to be part of communities and to be able to relax and daydream.”

Charlotte Myhrvold points out that drama is not the only vehicle for reaching the younger audience, mentioning the successful documentary Line fikser kroppen as an example.

“Drama is not the answer to everything, but it’s certainly an important element. And if we look ahead maybe three to five years, I believe the volume of youth drama will be slightly larger,” says the NRK commissioning editor for youth drama.