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Watching hours upon hours of television with no narrative, no conflict, no climax and no development whatsoever may seem the most boring way to spend your time. So it's surprising to hear that according to NRK, the national broadcaster of Norway, up to 45% of the Norwegian population has tuned in to one of their slow TV productions since they first started broadcasting in 2009.
As of this week, NRK is broadcasting the annual migration of reindeers across Norway and it is surprisingly compelling viewing!
It began with a 7 hour train journey and proceeded to a live broadcast of a Hurtigruten Coastal Voyage over 134 hours. In between the two, NRK have broadcast everything from a 30 hour interview to an 8 hour bonfire, which 20% of the population watched.
"Boring but boring in a very nice way."
Perhaps the most yawn-inducing description of one of the programs is the Evening of Knitting - split into a 4 hour discussion in one room about knitting, followed by 7.5 hours of knitting. Plus there has been an 18 hour live broadcast of salmon swimming upstream and 14 hours of birdwatching (actually 87 days on the web!). The list goes on.
Viewers of the programs, particularly of the Hurtigruten cruise, enjoyed the live nature of it. Many boats jetted out to meet the ship as it passed the coastline, while shore dwelling locals waved hands, banners and scarfs at the passing ship. One viewer reasons that watching slow TV is all about sitting back and watching nature come at you. It's a way to 'veg out'; there's no need for engagement and you don't miss anything if you leave the room.
In a TED talk, Thomas Hellum, the head of the project on Slow TV at NRK explains -
"We take the viewer on a journey that happens right now in real time, and the viewer gets the feeling of actually being there, actually being on the train, on the boat, and knitting together with others, and the reason I think why they're doing that is because we don't edit the timeline. It's important that we don't edit the timeline, and it's also important that what we make Slow TV about is something that we all can relate to, that the viewer can relate to, and that somehow has a root in our culture."
Slow TV acts as a break from the world we live in today, a moment to sit back and imagine stories about the people and places appearing on the screen. Perhaps something as unique as this would only work in a country as unique as Norway.
That remains to be seen however, as Netflix (US) recently signed on for a number of the existing programs. Maybe it will be just as successful with international audiences.