Top 25 Nordic media companies by revenue (2019)

The list of the 25 largest media companies headquartered in the Nordic region include a diverse collection of enterprises. The diversity is reflected in aspects such as domicile, age, and ownership structure, as well as profile of operations and profit levels. Whereas some companies are multinational – or even global – in their scope, others are exclusively national.

The top of the list of the largest Nordic media companies – in terms of 2019 revenue – is dominated by companies from the telecommunications industry, which in the Nordic context means companies involved in providing mobile and fixed-line telephony, Internet, and terrestrial and online television. In 2019, four of the five biggest media companies in terms of revenue were so-called telcos. The single largest company – with a total revenue of EUR 11,540 million in 2019 – is Norwegian telecommunications giant Telenor. Its Swedish equivalent – and competitor – Telia Company, holds position number two on the list.

Even though both Telenor and Telia Company are publicly listed, the Norwegian and Swedish states maintain the position as the largest shareholder in the respective company. Indeed, the presence of state ownership remains an important feature of the Nordic media system. Of the 25 largest media companies in the region, eight are under direct or indirect state control. Apart from Telenor and Telia Company, this group comprises six public service broadcasters (PSBs).

Public service media in the Nordic countries are organised somewhat differently, which effects the relative size of the largest PSBs. Whereas public service in Norway and Finland is operated within a single company (NRK* and Yleisradio), Sweden has three: one for television (Sveriges Television, SVT), one for radio (Sveriges Radio, SR) and one for educational programming (Sveriges Utbildningsradio, UR, which, due to its limited size, is not represented on the Top 25 list). In Denmark, there are two state-owned PSBs: DR, financed by state funding, and TV2, operating primarily on commercial revenue.

* In addition to the publicly funded NRK, the Norwegian state also has an agreement with TV 2 to provide certain public service content, including daily newscasts and children’s programming. TV 2, which is the largest commercial broadcaster in Norway, is owned by the Danish Egmont Group.

The majority of the companies on the Top 25 list are nonetheless privately controlled. Of the 19 companies that aren’t PSBs, ten are listed on a stock exchange, whereas nine are unlisted. Of the latter, five are controlled by not-for-profit foundations. In an additional three of the publicly listed companies, one or more foundations act as significant minority shareholders. Foundation ownership is yet another distinct feature of the Nordic media system. In contrast, only two companies on the Top 25 list remain traditional family firms: the Swedish Bonnier Group, owned by the Bonnier family, and the Finnish Otava Group, owned by the Reenpää family.

As for domicile, the Top 25 list reflects rather well the relative size of the national Nordic markets. Nine companies are headquartered in Sweden, seven in Denmark, five in Finland and four in Norway. Iceland is not represented on the Top 25 list.

In terms of longevity, no less than eight of the 25 largest Nordic media companies date back to the 1800’s. Six were founded in the 21st century. Notably, only one of the 25 largest Nordic media companies in terms of revenue was started as a purely online-based business. That is Spotify, which following a rapid growth in recent years, has positioned itself as the third largest media company in the Nordic region in terms of revenue. With 271 million registered users worldwide in 2019, Spotify is also the only truly global media company on the list. That being said, thirteen companies on the Top 25 list do nonetheless have operations in at least two Nordic countries. The other Nordic countries constitute important markets for most major Nordic media companies.

Of the 20 companies on the Top 25 list that do not operate on not-for-profit public service funding (i.e., license fee or tax money), a total of 17 reported a profit before taxes in 2019. Only three reported a loss. The highest profit margin, +20.2 per cent in relation to total revenue, was reported by the Finnish telco Elisa. The average profit margin of the 20 for-profit companies on the Top 25 list of 2019 landed at +6.3 percent.




Methodological notes

Listings of the relative size of contemporary major media companies warrant a number of 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 a number of previously “single-function” media companies have ventured horizontally into other parts of the media value chain. A recent example is the acquisition by the Swedish telecommunications company Telia of television channels in Sweden (TV4, C More) and Finland (MTV).

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 or not the company is headquartered in a Nordic country. This definition precludes global players such as Google, Discovery Communications, and Netflix – which arguably control significant market shares in the Nordic media markets in terms of revenue – from entering the list.


Text: Jonas Ohlsson