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‘Bordertown’ Producer Fisher King, Owned by Beta Film, Goes Bankrupt

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Fisher King, the leading Finnish company behind some of Scandinavia’s biggest scripted hits including “Bordertown” and “The Helsinki Syndrome,” has gone bankrupt amid challenges that have thrown the Scandinavian TV industry into turmoil.

Beta Film, which acquired Fisher King in 2019 and subsequently launched the umbrella banner Beta Nordic Studios, said the company was declared bankrupt on Dec. 23.

Fisher King was founded in 2013 by executive producer Matti Halonen and chief visual officer Miikko Oikkonen. Over the years, the outfit was able to produce some of the region’s most ambitious drama series through international co-productions. The company’s recent titles include “Estonia,” a limited series directed by Swedish director Måns Månsson and Finnish director Juuso Syrjä, about Europe’s deadliest civil maritime disaster which killed over 850 people in 1994. Oikkonen was a showrunner and co-wrote the show.

Speaking to Variety, Beta Nordic Studios’ executive chairman Justus Riesenkampff said that in spite of its stellar track record, “Fisher King was severely affected by adverse market developments, like many production companies, particularly in smaller markets.”

Riesenkampff pointed out “the rising production costs due to inflation have led the company into a very tense situation.” The executive cited “declining order volumes from broadcasters and platforms” as the main setback facing local producers.

Within the last couple years, Scandinavia has seen commissions from streamers collapse. HBO Max (“Bordertown”) pulled out of originals in the Nordics in 2022, while the local streaming champion Viaplay, which was a main source of financing, has cut back drastically on scripted while it’s going through a massive restructuring. Viaplay’s output has gone to 40 original productions per year to 10 or less titles. Local TV channels remain a source of financing but are often insufficient to cover budgets for high profile series.

Riesenkampff says the Nordics, like the rest of Europe, has been “confronted with consolidation as commissioners opt out,” citing Viaplay as “one example.”

Yet, Beta Film isn’t considering folding its operations in the Nordics, because the demand is still there and its industry is “very innovative, competitive, and fruitful.”

Martin Håkansson, Beta Nordic Studios’ CEO, concurs, saying that despite these challenges in the Scandi biz, Beta Nordic Studios is still pursuing “promising developments.”

“Our Swedish subsidiary Unlimited Stories is currently very successful with its new feature film ‘Hammarskjöld – Fight for Peace’ about the former United Nation Attorney General, which premiered around Christmas in Sweden and is currently #1 with a total of 250.000 admissions,” Håkansson. One of the project on Unlimited Stories’ pipeline is “Stockholm Pride,” an LGTBQ+-series which Beta Film will present during Berlinale.

Another banner owned by Beta Nordic Studios, Sagafilm, which is based in Iceland, will be at Goteborg Film Festival’s Nordic TV market with “Hildur,” a new crime drama, while Cinenord from Norway is producing a fourth and fifth season of “Wisting.”

Beta Nordic Studios’ development roster also includes “Raoul Wallenberg,” a big-budget drama series about the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish people during WWII.

While Fisher King is being handle by a court-appointed administrator, the company is currently in post-production with season two of “The Helsinki Syndrome.”

 

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