Monday, June 20, 2011

Half of Norway and a Voyage of Two Screens

Typical view from M/S Nordnorge. CC licensed by
 Norway's five and a half day long Coastal Voyage is broadcast live minute by minute on Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK's national TV channel NRK2 and being streamed 24/7 on the website It is one of the world's longest, and slowest moving, live broadcast ever. But quite possibly also the most beautiful.

What started as a crazy idea turned into a crazy multimedial concept on TV and the internet. But crazy is good. Norwegians love it. The first weekend, almost 2.6 million people tuned in to NRK2 to watch parts of the voyage. That is more than half the population of Norway (almost 5 million). And many thousands more followed the journey via web TV. 46% of those were watching the streamed journey from outside Norway.

NRKs Head of Research, Mr. Kristian Tolonen, breaks the numbers down a little. 180,000 people have, on average, been watching 24/7 since the start last Thursday. The peak was on Sunday evening, 15 minutes before midnight, when 692,000 was watching M/S Nordnorge (M/S NorthernNorway) enter the fjord of Trollfjorden, one of the highlights of the journey.

Thousands and thousands of people wave at the ship from the shore, other boats, bridges, piers and mountains. Many of the spectators are also shown in close up on national television, something quite a few realise after being told so via mobile phones by television viewers at home. Their typical reaction? Double speeded waving.

Two screens
Judging by comments on Twitter, Facebook and, a lot of people are watching the journey on TV while communicating with others via the web. People are praising NRK, the license funded broadcaster, for daring to do such a thing. And many are saying that they are now happy to pay the license fee. That is not usually uttered loudly by many. My guess is that the number of people paying the license fee wil increase quite a bit the next days and weeks. Around 10% do currently not pay.

The fact that the programme, if we can call it such, is so long and slow moving with continuous spectacular views, cheering people, orchestras playing and choires singing in every port makes it ideal for dialogue. This is a social experience, perfect for two screens. People are watching their beloved coast together on broadcasted television, and they have a need to share and discuss these moments, often in quite personal ways, via the internet. Whether it is with friends or strangers does not seem to matter.

The official Facebook group of the voyage has over 47,000 fans, whereas several of the destinations have "trended" on Twitter.

The concept is intriguing, extremelly fascinating and highly addictive. Some people claim to have watched 72 hours without sleep, others sleep on the sofa in front of the television set to miss as little as possible. This journey seems to make Norwegians extremelly proud of their country. There are dozens of Tweets and Facebook messages from people sharing that they are crying due to the strong emotion. Others proclaim this to be the best TV, or anti TV as some people call it, that they have EVER watched (usually followed by a number of exclamation marks). It may very well be the start of a different genre of programming, unless this is something that only appeals to Norwegians. It is about watching together, knowing that everyone else is sharing and taking part in a social setting which involves the sharing of impressions. Only broadcast television can make people come together like this. But not without the help of social media. Combination is key.

And it ain't over yet. You can follow the journey live on until Wednesday morning, June 22, Norwegian time.

Meeting M/S Kong Harald, a sister ship. CC licensed by