How the ‘Borgen effect’ ‘is changing our viewing tastes and even attitudes towards Europe
First we embraced continental holidays, and then became eager converts to its food and drink. Now, thanks to shows such as The Killing and Borgen, more Brits than ever before are overcoming a traditional suspicion of subtitles to become British Euro Viewers (BEVs).
Furthermore, the characters and situations brought into our living rooms via Scandinavians such as Sarah Lund (The Killing), Birgitte Nyborg (Borgen) or the Sicilian Inspector Montalbano may have wider reaching social consequences. At a time when Britain’s place in Europe is in question, one in four (24%) BEVs say watching European TV series makes them feel more positively towards Europe!
New research by Freeview, the UK’s biggest digital television provider, reveals how airings of the ‘new wave’ of European programmes has more than doubled the number of people who watched a European TV programme: today standing at 49% compared to just 21% in 2008 when the first series of Swedish detective series Wallander first appeared on our screens*.
In the past 12 months, when the latest series of The Killing and Borgen premièred, an estimated 4 million Brits (8 per cent) tuned into a European TV programme for the first time. At such a rate of growth 2013 is set to be a ‘tipping point’ in British viewer behaviour: for the first time more viewers will have watched a European TV programme than those who have not.
According to the Freeview research almost half (49%) of Brits who have tuned into continental TV imports believe the programmes add a new dimension to their viewing choice that hadn’t previously existed. Moreover, a fifth (22%) of viewers say that before they had previously avoided European TV programmes.
So how has this creation of the BEV happened? Much of the success in the rise in popularity of the European TV series can be attributed to discovery through word of mouth (23%) and social media (14%). Meanwhile, a third (37%) of BEVs say they have become advocates encouraging friends and family to watch.
While London unsurprisingly has the most people who’ve watched a European TV programme (66%), Birmingham (57%) and Edinburgh (56%) are not far behind. The city with the most catching up to do in the continental viewing trend is Cardiff (33%).
Self-proclaimed BEV, Arthur Perkins, 74, retired, said: “I’d probably been something of a traditional ‘meat and two veg’ viewer in terms of what I watched. Like many people of my generation non-English language programmes were a turn-off. However, I discovered The Killing and thought it was totally different from the usual British or American drama and I’ve been hooked on them all since. Along the way I’ve learned a lot about Europe from what I’ve seen on TV compared to what I thought before.”
Guy North, Marketing Communications Director at Freeview, said: “There was a time when for many British viewers European TV programmes were an instant turn-off, possibly considered too high-brow, niche or simply ‘foreign’ for our viewing tastes. Yet in the space of five years the number of Brits who have become BEVs for the first time has more than doubled.
“As European TV series have broken into mainstream viewing it proves that there is a continued demand for access to new, innovative programming in the UK. Because so much of their popularity and growth is owed to word of mouth recommendation it shows how universal access to free TV continues to broaden and shape our viewing tastes into new territory”
Note: Research was conducted by Populus on a sample of 2,000 respondents on 25th February
*Wallander, Series 1 Episode 1, first aired on BBC4 on December 6, 2008