ⓘ Slow television


ⓘ Slow television

Slow television, or slow TV, is a term used for a genre of "marathon" television coverage of an ordinary event in its complete length. Its name is derived both from the long endurance of the broadcast as well as from the natural slow pace of the television programs progress. It was popularised in the 2000s by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, beginning with the broadcast of a 7-hour train journey in 2009.


1. Background

An early example of extended length cinematography was artist Andy Warhols 1964 film Sleep, which showed poet John Giorno sleeping for five hours and twenty minutes. Warhols production process involved splicing and looping of film that he had originally shot in 3-4 minute lengths. The concept was adapted to slow television on local TV broadcast in 1966 by WPIX, to VHS video tape in 1984 by the British company Video125, to satellite TV in 2003 by Bahn TV, and to live TV in 2011 by the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK.

The latest evolution of the concept started with the NRKs coverage of the longest drivers eye view at that time, showing the complete 7-hour train ride along the Bergen Line Norwegian: Bergensbanen on 27 November 2009. It was followed by the live coverage of the Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge during its 134-hour voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes starting on 16 June 2011.

Both events received extensive attention in both Norwegian and foreign media, and were considered a great success with coverage numbers exceeding all expectations and record ratings for the NRK2 channel.


2.1. Earlier examples The Yule Log

Beginning in Christmas 1966, New York City television station WPIX showed a film of a yule log burning in a fireplace, accompanied by classic Christmas music playing in the background and broadcast without commercial interruption. It does not, however, strictly qualify as slow television because it was made artificially long by looping the original film.


2.2. Earlier examples Night Walk/Night Moves/Night Ride

Another early foray into slow television was Night Walk, Night Ride and Night Moves, a trio of late night programs which aired on the Global Television Network in Canada in the 1980s and early 1990s. Airing in the overnight hours when most television stations would have been running a test pattern, the three programs each depicted a different first-person view of a walking or driving trip through a part of downtown Toronto, with a mellow jazz soundtrack. Only two episodes of Night Walk and one episode of the others were ever actually produced, although they were rerun every night from their debut in 1986 to their cancellation in 1993.


3. NRK Norway

Starting in 2009 NRK, Norways public service broadcaster, has produced several slow television programs that have gained high ratings. Sakte-tv Norwegian for Slow-TV was named Word of the Year in Norway in 2013.


3.1. NRK Norway 2009: Bergensbanen – minutt for minutt

NRKs first foray into slow television was the program Bergensbanen minute by minute – train journey across Southern Norway, which depicted the 7-hour train journey from Bergen to Oslo along the Bergen Line Norwegian: Bergensbanen. It was aired on NRK2 on 27 November 2009 and came to be described as "the iconic slow-TV program". The event was planned as part of the 100-year anniversary of the existence of the Bergen Line. Four cameras were used to produce the documentary, showing both exterior and interior views, along with interviews with crew, train conductors, historians, past workers and passengers. The train went through 182 tunnels. Archival clips from the Bergen Railways 100-year history were shown when the train passed through tunnels, to make the final show last exactly as long as the train trip. The show was first broadcast on 27 November 2009, while the recording had been done earlier during summer.

The program was followed by an average of 176.000 viewers, and 1.246.000 Norwegian viewers 20% of the population were watching the event at least once during its screening time. The event received attention in both Norwegian and foreign media, and has received renewed attention and appreciation, mainly among its Norwegian followers.


3.2. NRK Norway 2010: Bybanen i Bergen – minutt for minutt

The 28-minute presentation Bybanen i Bergen – minutt for minutt showed a trip on the Bergen Light Rail from Nesttun to Bergen, shortly after the opening of the line in June 2010.


3.3. NRK Norway 2010: Flåmsbana – minutt for minutt

Following the success from the Bergen Line, NRK also filmed the Flåm Line in May 2010.

Flåmsbana minute by minute – scenic tourist route, train journey depicted the trip along the Flåm Line, a 20.2-kilometre 12.6 mi railway that descends 863 m 2.831 ft from Myrdal to Flåm on the Sognefjord. It was broadcast on NRK1 on 5 September at 08.05, lasting 58 minutes, and around 500.000 viewers watched the entire program, for a market share of 40%.


3.4. NRK Norway 2011: Hurtigruten – minutt for minutt

Hurtigruten minute by minute – a coastal voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes depicted the Norwegian Coastal Express Norwegian: Hurtigruten ship MS Nordnorge on a 134-hour voyage from Bergen to Kirkenes. The program started on 16 June 2011 at 19:45 CET on NRK and transmitted the entire journey live and non-stop. A total of 11 cameras - three fixed, a bow camera and a gyro stabilized Cineflex camera - recorded the boat.

The broadcast was shown live on NRK2 in Norway, and on the internet for international viewers and Norwegians abroad, available in Norwegian and English. The broadcast received greater attention and popularity than the previous Bergensbanen minutt for minutt show, both in media and by viewers.

During the weekend of 17–19 June 2011, 2.542.000 people, or approximately half the Norwegian population, visited the live broadcast. At its peak, 692.000 people followed the broadcast at 23:45 Sunday night, as the boat was heading into the Trollfjord in Lofoten. The broadcast has set a world record as being the worlds longest live television documentary and is in the Guinness Book of Records. The previous record was 13 hours against their 134 hours.

In 2012, Hurtigruten – minutt for minutt was included in Norsk Dokumentarv which is the Norwegian part of the Memory of the World Programme.


3.5. NRK Norway 2012: Lakseelva – minutt for minutt

Salmon river – minute by minute was a 24-hour-long live broadcast on NRK1 and NRK2 that depicted the opening day of fishing season on the Gaula River in Trondelag and lasted from 31 May to 1 June 2012. It consisted of a 40-minute introduction on NRK1, 18 hours of live salmon fishing on NRK2, and a 3-hour regular broadcast on NRK1. Around 1.6 million watched the broadcast, earning 10 percent of the market share.


3.6. NRK Norway 2012: Telemarkskanalen – minutt for minutt

Telemarkskanalen minute by minute – channel boat trip was a 12-hour cruise along the Telemark Canal that was broadcast live on NRK2 on Sunday 26 August 2012. 1.300.000 watched the broadcast in Norway, for a market share of 29 percent.


3.7. NRK Norway 2012: Nordlandsbanen – minutt for minutt

Nordlandsbanen minute by minute – season by season – train journey north of the Arctic Circle depicted a 9-hour and 50 minute journey on the Nordland Line railway from Trondheim to Bodo. It was broadcast on NRK2 on 29 December 2012 and had a viewership of around 1.2 million, for a market share of 13 percent.


3.8. NRK Norway 2013: Nasjonal vedkveld

On 15 February 2013 NRK broadcast the 12-hour-long broadcast National Wood Night on the topic of firewood. Nearly a million people, or 20 percent of the population, tuned in at some point of the program. The broadcast was inspired by the best-selling book by Lars Mytting, Solid Wood: All About Chopping, Drying and Stacking Wood - and the Soul of Wood-Burning. The show consisted of four hours of ordinary produced television, followed by showing eight hours of a live fireplace. The show received international attention, including an article in The New York Times and a segment on The Colbert Report.


3.9. NRK Norway 2013: Sommeråpent – minutt for minutt

Summer Entertainment Show – coastal cruise with entertainment show, a journey from Oslo to Kirkenes and back was a coastal cruise with entertainment from Oslo to Kirkenes and back. The approximately 379-hour show was broadcast live on NRK1 from Saturday 22 June to Sunday 10 August 2013.


3.10. NRK Norway 2013: Nasjonal strikkekveld

On 1 November 2013, NRK aired National Knitting Night, a 12-hour show depicting a non-stop knitting marathon which attempted to break the Guinness World record for knitting a sweater from beginning to end. An NRK spokesperson described the show as "the feminine response to the firewood show."


3.11. NRK Norway 2014: 200 år på 200 minutter

In 200 years in 200 minutes - lecture performed by professor Frank Aarebrot, political scientist Frank Aarebrot gave a 200-minute lecture on the past 200 years of Norwegian history. 700.000 viewers watched the broadcast, which ran from 8:05 to 11:30 am on 28 February, gaining a 15 percent share of viewership.


3.12. NRK Norway 2014: 1814 på 24 timar

1814 in 24 hours commemorated the signing of the Constitution of Norway in 1814. Around 50 academics lectured for 24 hours straight from Rikssalen in Eidsvollsbygningen, the building where the constitution was originally signed. The show broadcast from 9 May to 10 May 2014, with a viewership of 669.000, or 6 percent market share.


3.13. NRK Norway 2014: Piip-show

Piip-show featured footage from a camera set up to record the activities of birds and other wildlife at a bird feeder decorated to look like a coffee shop. A website run by NRK streamed live footage from the camera for three months, and NRK2 also featured a 14-hour television program showing live footage on 25 May 2015, with a viewership of 243.000.


3.14. NRK Norway 2014: Salmeboka – minutt for minutt

On 28–30 November 2014, NRK aired the 60-hour Hymnal - cover to cover. The show depicted about 200 choirs, including around 3.000-4.000 singers and soloists, performing the entire contents of the Church of Norways national hymnal, published in 2013. Most of the performances took place live at Vår Frue Church in Trondheim, though some recorded performances came from 11 other sites such as Karasjok in northern Norway and Decorah, Iowa. The church was open throughout the show, and more than 16.000 visitors dropped in. A total of 2.2 million viewers tuned in at some point during the program, with an average of 87.000 at any one time.


3.15. NRK Norway 2015: Krig på 200 minutter

War in 200 minutes featured a 200-minute lecture from Frank Aarebrot on the subject of war. It was broadcast on 9 April 2015, the 75th anniversary of the German occupation of Norway in 1940. The program received a viewership of 238.000 with a market share of 21.4 percent.


3.16. NRK Norway 2015: Sommerbåten – minutt for minutt

Summer boat – coastal cruise with entertainment show, a journey from Vadso to Oslo depicted a live coastal cruise from Vadso in northern Norway to Oslo in southern Norway. The show lasted from Sunday 21 June until Saturday 15 August.


3.17. NRK Norway 2016: Saltstraumen – minutt for minutt

Saltstraumen – minute by minute was a 12-hour show depicting live footage from the Norwegian strait of Saltstraumen, site of one of the strongest tidal currents in the world. It was broadcast on 7 May 2016.


3.18. NRK Norway 2016: Skibladners seilas – minutt for minutt

Skibladner cruise – minute by minute was a week-long show depicting footage of a cruise of the paddle steamer Skibladner on lake Mjosa in southern Norway, and it was broadcast to coincide with the 160th anniversary of the ships launch.


3.19. NRK Norway 2016: USA-valget: 227 år på 227 minutter

In US Elections: 227 years in 227 minutes, Frank Aarebrot spent 227 minutes discussing the US presidential election of 2016 and the history of elections in the US.


3.20. NRK Norway 2016-present

  • Ribba – grad for grad The pork rib – degree for degree
  • Sommertoget The summer train
  • Besseggen minutt for minutt Besseggen minute by minute
  • Reinflytting minutt for minutt Reindeer migration minute by minute
  • Monsen minutt for minutt Monsen minute by minute
  • Grieg minutt for minutt Grieg minute by minute
  • Klokken minutt for minutt The clock – minute by minute
  • Svalbard minutt for minutt Svalbard minute by minute

3.21. NRK Norway Interaction through social media

During the 134 hour broadcast of the Hurtigruten trip, the show received massive attention among Norwegian followers in the social media arena. On Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, people talked about the trip and how they followed its progression.

As the boat moved north, place names popped up in the top 10, such as #Sortland and #Trollfjord. Around midnight Saturday there was one tweet about Hurtigruten per six seconds. During the broadcast, cities competed in arranging the greatest welcoming committee at the different harbors and three different wedding proposals were captured during the 136 hours.


3.22. NRK Norway International attention

The Hurtigruten – minute by minute broadcast was also shown online with many viewers abroad; 46 percent of online viewers were outside Norway. The major countries were Denmark 7%, United States 4%, Germany 4%, United Kingdom 4%, and France 4%, gaining attention in international media.

During the days of the broadcast the Norwegian Embassy in Seoul organized a campaign on the subway to promote Norway. A billboard set up in Samgakji subway station in downtown Seoul was set up to broadcast the show live. Korean media showed interest in the exhibition, characterizing it as "the most creative PR stunt theyve heard of in a long time".


4. International adaptations


The British channel BBC Four broadcast on 3 February 2019 a journey along the Great Wall of China.

United Kingdom: BBC Four Goes Slow

As an adaptation of the style, the British channel BBC Four in 2015 and 2016 broadcast a series of slow journeys such as a canal boat journey and bus ride.


4.1. International adaptations Australia: Special Broadcasting Service

On the evening of 7 January 2018, the Special Broadcasting Service SBS broadcast on its main TV channel the first Australian-made slow TV style program, a three-hour-long documentary of a journey aboard The Ghan, the passenger train from Adelaide to Darwin. The three hour program also used both archival imagery and contemporary graphics to tell the story of the construction of the 2.979 km 1.851 mi Adelaide–Darwin railway and that of its predecessor, the Central Australia Railway.

According to OzTAM’s overnight preliminary ratings, the SBS telecast of the three hour program averaged more than 400.000 viewers, with most of the audience being in Melbourne. SBS later issued a media release stating that the three hour program had ". recorded an average of 583.000 viewers in metro and regional markets. making this the highest performing SBS program in the past 12 months.". SBS also scheduled a broadcast of a longer, 17-hour, version of the program on SBS Viceland on Sunday, 14 January 2018, from 2.40am to 8.30pm.

In November 2018, SBS announced a series of four Slow TV programs, covering rail, road, canal and river, to be broadcast in January 2019.


4.2. International adaptations Belgium: Voor De Ronde

The Belgian public-service broadcaster VRT aired a live broadcast of Ruben Van Gucht, a sports reporter, riding the route of the Tour of Flanders road cycling race, accompanied by anyone who wanted to join him. The event took place on 31 March 2017, two days before the race. The journey was filmed by several motorcycle cameramen and a helicopter and was accompanied by live studio commentary about the journey and the history of the Tour of Flanders.


4.3. International adaptations China

The British channel BBC Four broadcast on 3 February 2019 a journey along the Great Wall of China.


4.4. International adaptations United Kingdom: BBC Four Goes Slow

As an adaptation of the style, the British channel BBC Four in 2015 and 2016 broadcast a series of slow journeys such as a canal boat journey and bus ride.


4.5. International adaptations Spain: Aragon TV El viaje

On 1 January 2019, "El viaje" brings this genre to Spain for the first time with the full and uninterrupted broadcast on Aragon TV of the popular "canfranero", the railway that links Zaragoza with Canfranc on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the inauguration of the Pyrenean international station. Viewers will be able to enjoy the 218.39 kilometres of the trains complete route from its departure from Zaragoza to its arrival in the Pyrenees, enjoying the landscapes of the capitals urban environment, the extensive fields of the Huesca basin and the valleys of the Gallego and Aragon rivers.


4.6. International adaptations France: France 4 in association with Eden TV

France 4, on March 31, 2014, aired a nine-hour program of a man walking backwards through Tokyo, Tokyo Reverse directed by Simon Buisson and Ludovic Zuili, and on October 3, 2015, the same channel aired a six-hour program, Slow Moscow, directed by Romain Quirot, following in real time the strolls of a couple of dancers in the streets of Moscow.


4.7. International adaptations New Zealand: Go South

PRIME, on the 19 January 2019, aired "Go South", a 3 and/or 12 hour production cut from over 40 hours of footage of travel from Auckland to Milford Sound, by train, ferry, and car. The broadcast incorporated not only static cameras of the vehicle, but also drone and helicopter shots of notable locations and bridges.

The production first aired in its 3-hour form at 9:30pm, 19 January 2019, with the 12-hour variant following at 1:30am, 20 January 2019.


4.8. International adaptations Sweden: Den stora algvandringen

Sveriges Television presented Den stora algvandringen "The Great Moose Migration" from April 15 to May 5, 2019, with continuous coverage of outdoor scenes and migrating moose. The production used 22 cameras installed at several sites, including at river crossings frequently used by the animals in their annual journey to summer grounds. The programme was streamed on the internet continuously and portions were broadcast.


5.1. Web-based slow TV transmissions 1999-2012: nocinema.org by Jerome Joy

French artist and composer Jerome Joy developed an ever-evolving streaming online application, NoCinema, with multiple cameras in different sites around the world offering a project between documentary and fiction and generating infinite audio-visual sequences.


5.2. Web-based slow TV transmissions 2007: cheddarvision.tv by West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers

On January 1, 2007, West Country Farmhouse Cheesemakers in Dorset, England, began the one-year live streaming of a round of Westcombe Dairy cheddar maturing on their shelf.


5.3. Web-based slow TV transmissions 2016: Terms and conditions word by word

To illustrate the wordiness of the terms and conditions on an average phone, the Norwegian Consumer Council staged a reading of 30 such legal documents in a session that started on 24 May 2016 and was streamed for more than 24 hours.


5.4. Web-based slow TV transmissions Sigur Ros: Route One

On the day of the 2016 summer solstice, Sigur Ros unveiled a 24-hour slow TV event live on Icelands national television, and streamed live globally via YouTube. It featured the journey along the entirety of Icelands Route 1, which loops around the perimeter of the country, while playing a live-generated remix of the bands new song, "Ovedur".


5.5. Web-based slow TV transmissions 2005–present: Watching Grass Grow by Alek Komarnitsky alias Mister Grass

Watching Grass Grow has shown a continuous live feed of a front lawn since 2005.


6. Media coverage

British filmmaker Tim Prevetts documentary film That Damned Cow: Just what is Norwegian Slow TV? described early slow TV productions from NRK. He has compared the appeal of slow television to the revival of vinyl LP records as a format for audio recordings.

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