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TV Drama Weekly
***ZDF Enterprises***


February 19, 2019



Premium Drama in Focus at Elisa Viihde
By Mansha Daswani

***Eccho Rights***Like SVOD platforms the world over, Elisa Viihde in Finland is using distinctive, original programming to drive its subscriber-acquisition strategy. Owned by Finnish telecommunications company Elisa, the platform, which marks its tenth anniversary this year, has upped its investments in local content over the last few years, with strong results to date. Of note, its thriller Bullets won the Coup de Coeur at the MIPDrama Buyers Summit last year, up against its own Arctic Circle as well as shows from Movistar+, ITV and Sky Germany. “We're an SVOD service and we're competing against much bigger budgets, much bigger companies—and little old us pulled it out of the bag!” says Alan Sim, executive producer and commissioner at the platform.

***Image***The platform’s original scripted efforts started about five years ago with comedies. “They were quicker to produce and less expensive to make, while we figured out what possible models we could use in terms of getting the budgets higher,” says Ani Korpela, head of content at the platform. Elisa Viihde then tapped into its relationships with the local creative community, as a leading buyer of Finnish movies, to attract production companies and directors eager to enter the new golden age of television. However, “we needed [partnerships] to get the budgets bigger,” Korpela notes.

At first, “when we started talking to people, asking if they wanted to co-produce or distribute [our shows], they were very polite but not that into it,” Korpela says. That has all changed in the last two years, with Elisa Viihde working with a variety of distributors, including Sky Vision, About Premium Content and Lagardère Studios Distribution. “The message is, the Finns are coming!” Sim says.

The platform plans to keep its original drama output at a manageable size, Korpela says, rolling out five new shows last year and two series with returning seasons. “We need to concentrate on the quality. There's marketing as well. If ***Image***people are getting something new every week, they won't notice anything anymore.”

The company is, however, “experimenting more,” Sim says. “Arctic Circle and Bullets are both mixed language. All the Sins is all Finnish. As a Finnish service, we want to make things that are Finnish and attract local audiences. We don't want to make a Europudding. The stories have to feel organic. There has to be a real reason for doing it. Something like All the Sins, which is set in a religious community, is very particular to Finland. We read the scripts and thought it felt particularly Finnish, but it could equally feel like a [show set in] deep south Mississippi. So, it feels very local, but a distributor can sell this, and could probably also sell the format.”

The team at Elisa Viihde is also balancing how it uses big data and algorithms to determine the content lineup. “Data tells you what they have been watching, but it doesn't tell you what they might be watching in two years,” Korpela says. “We try to mix the data, the insights of our executive producers, focus groups. At the end of the day, it's a creative decision.”

“You have to have a gut instinct,” Sim adds. “It’s about using the data cleverly, but also having a feeling about shows, about people, and talking to producers, finding out what they're making and what people are up to. You have to have your feet on the ground with what's going on. You can only do that by building relationships with people.”

***TV Drama at MIPTV***

Want to know what broadcasters are paying for scripted-programming acquisitions?

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Analysis: Determining Prices: A look at how the price ranges are determined, and general trends in how broadcasters are valuing shows today.
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Analysis: Dealing with OTTs: Perspectives on working with nonlinear platforms and their evolving business models. 

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