Andy Warhol's "Sleep" in 1963 is cited as the first Slow TV recording. I am reluctant to describe it as Slow TV as it was not made for TV and as far as I know at this time, has not been screened on TV. The question of motive for making the film comes into play. Warhol is cited by wikipedia (yes, I know and am verifying the quote by other avenues!) as having made the piece as "anti-film"; it has neither been made to play out in a TV schedule nor made for a TV audience. For that reason while it has key aspects of Slow TV, I feel it does not fully qualify for the addition of "TV".
The next entry into the Slow TV ancestry is in 1966 the burning log at Christmas - a looped segment of a wood fire burning with Christmas songs, broadcast continuous for two to four hours. Contemporary Slow TV does not loop footage.
Recordings of train journeys have been widely carried out for TV, and fall easily into the Slow TV format. 1984 in Britain saw a film being made featuring the Settle and Carlisle Railway (but was it ever broadcast - or video only)? I am currently researching earlier possibilities and will update here as and when I have been able to check. Between 2003 - 2008, Bahn TV in Germany was broadcast, indeed, matches the criteria for Slow TV.
More details and links on the Wikipedia page here.
It is since 2009 that Norwegian state broadcaster Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK) has innovated Slow TV in a way which has energised and redefined the format, if there ever was a format for Slow TV before. These broadcasts are either of a journey or a themed event. NRK will continue to make Slow TV a couple times a year for the foreseeable future. These projects are numerous to date; to find out more click this link for more on the Norwegian projects NRK Sakte TV.
Finnish broadcaster Yleisradio (YLE) has incorporated elements of Slow TV into two themed long broadcasts since NRK began theirs. On the 21st June 2012 a thirteen hour live marathon broadcast of the overnight train journey of almost 1,000 km from Oslo to Rovaniemi. On the summer solstice with the midnight sun, YLE incorporated events on and off track into their transmission. Called "JuhannusJuna" - meaning Midsummer Train, you can read their extensive blog here (Google Chrome will give a rough translation into whatever language you require) and here on the relevant Facebook page.
More NRK projects follow in the meantime, then on March 31st 2014 France 4 broadcasts the "Tokyo Reverse" - a 9 hour prerecorded show of Simon Bouisson walking in Tokyo - with a twist. He has perfected walking backwards, which he does during recording; however, when edited, the film is reversed so Simon appears to walk forwards and everyone and everything else happens backwards. Unlike journey or theme based Slow TV, this is much more about the concept. The Tokyo Reverse was transmitted on Dutch broadcaster Nederlandse Publieke Omroep (NPO) TVLab on the 23rd into the 24th August 2014. The trailer and highlights are available on Vimeo here.
In May 2014 a commercial channel carried a Slow TV broadcast - the first time it had been done. TV2 - the principal commercial channel in Norway broadcast several hours a day of helicopter flights over the entire country, with a publicised route and timetable allowing real life engagement. Fly Med Oss (Fly with Us) lasted for three weeks, non-continuous broadcast and has more via the dedicated website here. English speaking media seemed not to pick up on this broadcast at the time.
Meanwhile, back in Finland YLE did another themed marathon broadcast on 18th June 2014 with aspects of Slow TV, themed around aspects of sauna culture, sauna building and a sausage competition. This was live from 6pm to midnight; some content remains here on the YLE website.
NRK, having developed a global reputation for engaging features with high production values, will be making Slow TV for many years yet. There was another broadcast in November 2014 (Salmeboka) - 60 hours of the Norwegian Hymn Book live. Severin is a different approach to Slow TV, not a marathon broadcast, but very calm, mellow and moments of stillness given by the occasional long held shot.
Coming up in 2015 is "Slow Road Live" in the USA - which comes in a good year for Slow TV. Having been largely confined to Norway to date, Easter sees German Channel ARD-Alpha with a Slow TV project, in June the BBC will have a week of "BBC Four Goes Slow". The developers and masters of the format, NRK will likely have another Slow TV transmission - probably in June - and then the first proper development of the Norwegian format outside of Norway, in the USA in November.
The future's bright. The future is Slow.
Updated 1st April 2015.
Slow Television -The Slow TV Blog