The 25 largest media companies in the Nordics by turnover (2021)

The list of the 25 biggest media companies headquartered in the Nordics covers a large variety of businesses. The variation is expressed in geographic location, age, and ownership structure, as well as in business focus and profitability levels. While some companies are international – and even global – in their operations, others are exclusively national.

The list of the largest Nordic media companies – in a broad sense and measured in turnover in 2021 – is dominated by companies from the telecom industry. In a Nordic context, this means companies that offer everything from fixed and mobile telecommunication via the Internet to terrestrial and streamed television. In 2021, four of the top five media companies in the Nordics in terms of turnover were so-called telcos.

The Nordic countries have chosen to organise their public service media systems in different ways, which affects the relative size of the largest public service companies. In Norway and Finland, public service media is run within the framework of a single company in each country: NRK and Yleisradio, respectively. Norwegian NRK is also the biggest of the Nordic public service companies in terms of turnover. Denmark, in turn, has two state-owned public service media companies. The larger of these two, DR, is financed through public funds. The other and smaller company, TV2, mainly runs on commercial income. Sweden, in turn, has three public service media companies, of which Sveriges Television and Sveriges Radio make the list of the largest media companies in the Nordic region.

However, the majority of the 25 largest Nordic media companies in this compilation are privately owned. Eleven of the nineteen companies that are non-public service media are listed companies, while eight are outside the stock exchange. Of the latter, five are owned by non-profit foundations. Foundations also serve as significant minority shareholders in a couple of the publicly traded companies on the top-25 list. Foundation ownership is another characteristic of the Nordic media system. At the same time, only one of the companies on this top list can be characterised as a family-owned business: Bonnier Group, which is owned by the Swedish Bonnier family.

In terms of which country the companies are headquartered in, the top-25 list reflects the relative size of the national Nordic markets rather well. Nine of the companies have their headquarters in Sweden, seven in Denmark, five in Norway, and four in Finland. Iceland is not represented on the list of the Nordic region's biggest media companies.

The majority of the 25 largest media companies in the Nordics have a long history, and several of them have roots all the way back to the nineteenth century. Six companies were started in the 2000s. One of these, Spotify, was started as a purely digital business, and it has, through rapid growth, come to occupy second place on the list of the Nordic region's largest media companies in terms of turnover. With 406 million active users in 2021 worldwide, Spotify is also the only truly global media company on the list. The other Nordic countries are important markets for most of the largest Nordic media companies, and 15 of the 25 companies operate in at least two Nordic countries. The public service media companies form the core of the group of companies that operate only within the borders of one country.

Of the total of 19 companies on the top list that are not public service media companies, 18 reported a positive result before tax in 2021; only one made a loss. The highest profit margin before tax (+66 per cent in relation to revenues) was reported by the Swedish telecom company HI3G. The average profit margin before tax in 2021, among the 20 profit-making companies on the top-25 list, was +5.8 per cent.

Methodological notes

Listings of the relative size of contemporary major media companies warrant several methodological considerations.

A first concern is the definition of “media”. In this analysis, we have applied a broad definition to the concept of media, including companies not only involved in media production (such as newspapers, TV and radio channels, movies, magazines or books), but also in provision of digital media services (such as broadband, mobile and fixed-line telephony), and the distribution – or bundling – of mediated content, such as terrestrial, satellite, cable and on-demand television, and online streaming services. Looking at the structural development of the Nordic news media markets in recent years, it is notable that several previously “single-function” media companies have ventured horizontally into other parts of the media value chain.

Regarding the measurement of the size of individual companies, our list is based on total revenue of the companies concerned. This means that “non media” revenue streams are also included in the data. The same thing applies, of course, for revenue stemming from sales outside the Nordic region.

A final methodological concern is related to domicile. In the contemporary globalised economy and capital markets, it is increasingly difficult to pinpoint a national label for many media firms, especially if ownership is dispersed over several countries. Our definition of “Nordic” in this fact sheet builds not on the domicile of the majority owner, but on whether the company is headquartered in a Nordic country. This definition precludes global players such as Google, and Netflix – which arguably control significant market shares in the Nordic media markets in terms of revenue – from entering the list.