SVT factual exec on social docs and on-demand

Mikael Osterby, the head of factual, music and arts in program acquisitions at Stockholm-based SVT, talks social issue docs, on-demand services and ... freed lions?
September 15, 2008

How has the Swedish TV market changed recently?
Everybody is speaking about how [commercial station] TV4 (our biggest channel) bought Canal+. The price was very high: around €400 million.

What are some of the trends in factual TV in Sweden right now, and with SVT’s docs specifically?
The trend might be that there is no trend, perhaps. If there is one, it might be that the documentary series are very well produced and have high production value. It’s probably due to the audience getting to know the genre well and that results in high demands. SVT is doing very well and has had huge successes with several documentary series on ‘social issues:’ one called School class 9A about a ‘less fortunate’ class with poor results where all the teachers are changed for one semester. The results rise and everybody is happy. It has resulted in a big debate on school issues in Sweden, and the series just won a Kristallen [Swedish Emmy award].

How is the online revolution playing out in Sweden?
Great. Broadband penetration is very high, which helps.

How are things going with SVT’s on-demand service on your website?
It’s a huge success. SVT Play (like BBC’s iPlayer) actually has more downloads (in numbers) than the BBC. The majority of SVT’s programs are streamed online for catch-up services.

You said last year that ‘People will always want other people to choose content for them. Public broadcasting will have a new, more important role of finding quality programs and meaningful content.’ Do you still feel exactly the same way?
Yep. In a world with billions of opportunities and no time, people want to trust someone to make choices for them.

Fun question: what’s the most recent YouTube clip that’s made you laugh out loud?
I cried when I saw that very famous meeting between the freed lion and its human parents. Otherwise I mostly laugh when watching Swedish stand-up acts.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.