Mastiff – Norway’s production champion
BY Georgi R. Chakarov
During the tough 2020 as ad budgets were falling sharply and channels all over the world resorted to repeats to keep their business afloat, Norway’s leading production company not only had a successful year but increased its revenue and profit by half.
As the numbers were revealed by Finansavisen, CEO Jostein Olseng explained them with the company’s good routines for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. In this interview with Georgi R. Chakarov, he talks a bit more about the activities of Mastiff and the potential for even bigger 2021, with lots of returning and several premiering shows already on air.
Crime Scene Norway
Jostein, Mastiff is currently the biggest independent producer in Norway. Could you briefly tell us about the various companies within the group?
Mastiff is a production company with a proud history dating back to the early 90’s. The company’s vision is to reflect the reality of Norwegian reality, via the programs we proudly produce. Mastiff is especially known for our many factual productions - and our distinctive way of producing reality aimed at a young target group.

Despite the corona crisis, you enjoyed record results in 2020 with the revenues rising by nearly 50%. How did you achieve this success?
We love to produce and live to produce. Therefore, we are very grateful and happy that last year was a busy year. We feel very privileged to be allowed to produce so many exciting productions - and to be able to tell engaging and important stories through these productions.

Mastiff benefits from having very strong production teams and creative teams, from having the trust of our customers, and of course that we have access to a fantastic catalog with super strong IP - via Banijay.

How many hours do you produce annually, and do you expect to set a new record in 2021?
We produce a very large number of hours every year. A very large proportion of these hours are driven by the morning show - which we produce for TV 2. We produce over 200 episodes a year of the morning show Good Morning Norway. In total, we produced over 850 hours of TV last year.

What have been some of your biggest hits and what new productions do you have in the pipeline?
Mastiff is recognized, in the Norwegian market, for our strong factual productions. These are productions like Crime Scene Norway and TV 2 Helps You Out.

In the pipeline, we are really proud to be able to present a fantastic Norwegian version of LEGO Masters - this autumn. We are also really happy to bring Fort Boyard back to the Norwegian market, after 10 years, this autumn.

What type of content are the local broadcasters looking for right now?
The short answer is that they are looking for content in Norwegian. Content that in different ways reflects different aspects of Norwegian culture and life.

Is there a difference in the approach of pitching a show to a channel and to a streaming service?
The boring answer is that there are more similarities than differences. The most important thing, no matter and always, is the content - the idea and the stories we want to tell through the production.

We could argue that Norway is among the most advanced markets when it comes to analyzing live TV and on-demand viewing data. However, which are the numbers that matter most to you? When is a show considered a success on your market?
It really depends on what “job” the program is set to do for the customer. For example, the “job” of Paradise Hotel is to generate on-demand numbers. But in general, it can be said with certainty that on-demand numbers are becoming more and more important. Because on-demand is where the future lies.

We see quite a big push for content in general from both the local players and the international streamers. How does that affect a small market like Norway, i.e. are producers able to handle the load and keep up the high production value?
We have a strong production team - and we also have many skilled professionals who want to work with us - or for us. So, we have no problem maintaining, even increasing, the high production quality.

Has this also led to an increase in production costs and services?
We are always under pressure from our clients. At the same time, we work purposefully and hard to ensure that they get the highest possible value out of their investments in content produced by us.

Being part of Banijay, what additional benefits does your company enjoy compared to other players on the market?
Banijay drives a multi-brand strategy - not only by saying but also by doing. This means that we enjoy a very large degree of autonomy. We can make our own choices and lay out our own strategy.

At the same time, we enjoy many benefits from being part of the world’s largest production group. First and foremost, it gives us access to a strong IP which we can bring to our clients and the Norwegian market. Banijay invests heavily in creativity, and in addition to strong IP, we also have access to the world’s best TV brains - which assist us in our local creative work.
Jostein Olseng turns 44 this October. He has been the CEO of Mastiff Norway since 2019. He joined the company back in 2007 and has previously served as COO, Head of Factual, Executive Producer and Producer. Between 2014 and 2018, he oversaw the establishing and build-up of the company’s successful factual department. Prior to joining Mastiff, he worked as a news reporter for almost 10 years, and holds a degree in Journalism.
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