Warner Bros. Finland: The popular SuomiLOVE programme now an export product

SuomiLOVE is a music programme, which Yle TV2, a Finnish public service TV channel, began broadcasting in 2014. During each season, the programme tells one hundred Finnish love and friendship stories, each involving a Finnish piece of music. In 2014, the programme won the Golden Venla Award for the best entertainment programme, and in 2015 for the best music entertainment programme.

The format, dubbed Soundtrack of Love for international audiences, is now being sold to foreign broadcasting companies. In 2016, programmes created using the SuomiLOVE format will be broadcast in at least Belgium and Estonia, while negotiations are under way in several other countries. Until now, similar prime time TV formats have been unable to make onto international markets.

The SuomiLOVE format was developed and perfected in a project funded by Tekes. The project involved Warner Bros. Finland developing a new, multimedia-based operational model, supported by the client insight and analytical competencies essential to build an internationally competitive offering. Such competence also promotes the objectives of Tekes' Feelings programme, designed to drive growth and internationalisation in creative industries.

Why did Tekes choose to finance a media giant like Warner in the development of SuomiLOVE?

"Warner Bros. Finland is a Finnish company. But the fact that the company is registered in Finland, partly in Finnish ownership, and pays taxes here was not the key issue," explains Antti Väisänen, CEO of Warner Bros. Finland.

"As members of an industry organisation, we wanted to see the entire industry move forward, so we put our heads together with Tekes to come up with a joint action plan. We identified a few projects we could use for testing what it was like to complete the entire Tekes process from start to finish. SuomiLOVE was one of these pilot projects."

"One of the common problems production companies experience is the lack of R&D funding. Lack of funding means companies bring incomplete formats to the screen. Tekes funding was absolutely crucial; it allowed us to go through a demo and pilot stage, and bring SuomiLOVE on screen only once the format was well developed and thought out."

"Formats are an extremely competitive business, but Warner has a very effective sales organisation, which is able to introduce Finnish formats abroad. With SuomiLOVE, it is extremely important to have popular local artists on board. In addition, it is easier to deal with contracts and other similar practicalities with a major player like Warner."

Where to find German counterparts for the Dudesons?

The TV format business is fair for smaller countries, as localisation payments are based on the production costs of the country in question.

"The format business has fairly well-established rules. The licence fees for entertainment series typically represent 5-7 per cent of the production budget. Distribution and sales companies usually get 25–30 per cent of that money, with the production company that developed the format getting the rest."

"When you start planning a new programme, you should think twice about the opportunities for selling and duplicating it. Humour is extremely culture-bound, which makes it hard to sell. The same goes for series based on well-known characters. While TV series with the Dudesons make great entertainment, I imagine it would be challenging to find a similar group in Germany or Hungary, for instance."

Buyers want more than just an idea

"In the technology industry, you have something to sell, starting from a patent. But the buyer of a TV format wants to see the product, ratings and a viewer profile before making a decision to buy. In this industry, significant investments are required before we have anything to sell."

"From our perspective, the first season of a programme is its development phase. The entire development team is still working on the format. However, from the Tekes perspective the product has, at this point, been launched onto the markets and is no longer eligible for funding. This is something that needs more thought," Väisänen concludes.

For further information, please contact

Antti Väisänen, CEO
antti.vaisanen (at) warnerbros.com
Tel. +358 10 574 1500

Photos: Warner Bros. Finland

Eero Lukin