Viaplay Group Announces New Business Operating Model, Changes to Management Team

Viaplay Group, the Swedish-based operator of a branded subscription streaming VOD service in 13 countries, including the United States and Canada, June 28 announced a new Nordic country-based operating model and changes to its executive management team.

This follows the June 5 announcement of changes to Viaplay’s short-term outlook for 2023, and the appointment of Jørgen Madsen Lindemann as the new CEO. The new operating model aims to improve operating efficiency and performance, sharpen the focus on the development of market-relevant product offerings, and accelerate the ongoing review of the company’s operations and return on investment.

The updated operating model will be based around country management teams with full responsibility for the daily operation and strategic development of the businesses, including full line of sight and accountability for sales, costs, profitability, cashflows, content, marketing and operations.

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Lindemann will be interim CEO of the Swedish and Finnish operations while the search is made for a permanent appointment. Lars Bo Jeppesen has been appointed EVP and CEO of the Danish and Icelandic operations, effective Aug. 1. Kenneth Andresen has been appointed interim CEO of the Norwegian operation. Peter Nørrelund, who recently rejoined Viaplay as EVP and chief sports and business development officer, will also take on responsibility for operations in the Netherlands, Poland, Baltics, and the United Kingdom.

The other members of the executive leadership team reporting to Lindemann include: Enrique Patrickson (EVP, CFO and head of strategy and M&A); Philip Wågnert (EVP and chief technology and product officer); My Perrone (EVP and general counsel); Matthew Hooper (returning to his role as EVP and chief corporate affairs officer); Vanda Rapti (EVP, content distribution); and Christian Albeck (EVP, content acquisition).

“This is the first of what will be a number of step changes to ensure that we are investing in the areas where we see the greatest potential, that we are laser focused on the daily business of creating locally relevant products and experiences, and that we are as close as possible to our customers,” Lindemann said in a statement.

It remains to be seen how the changes will impact Viaplay’s recent launch of a $5.99 monthly branded SVOD service in the United States and Canada featuring original Nordic content.

Viaplay reported a net loss of $26.6 million on revenue of $419.5 million in the first quarter ended March 31, which compared to income of $44.6 million on revenue of $307.4 million in the prior-year period.

Nordic Viaplay SVOD Service Launching in the U.S. Feb. 22

Sweden-based Viaplay Group will launch its Viaplay-branded subscription streaming VOD service in the United States on Feb. 22 (priced at $5.99 monthly), followed by service launch in Canada ($6.99 monthly) on March 7. The platform will bow with more than 1,500 hours of European content, with at least one premiere bowing weekly.

Viaplay content includes “Nordic Noir” dramas, series, movies and documentaries, many starring major Hollywood names. Viaplay’s North American launches will expand its direct-to-consumers footprint to 13 markets worldwide.

“Nordic Noir” content includes “Trom,” starring Ulrich Thomsen (“The New Pope”; “The Blacklist”), “Furia,” “Partisan” with Fares Fares (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and the young adult drama “Threesome,” co-starring Lucien Laviscount (“Emily in Paris”), among others.

In addition, Viaplay will offer curated third-party films such as A Man Called Ove (recently remade in Hollywood as A Man Called Oscar, starring Tom Hanks), the Oscar-winning dark comedy Another Round with Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) and Sofia Helin (Alex Rider) in historical drama The Emigrants, along with the dark financial series, Exit — one of Norway’s most streamed dramas ever. All content will have English subtitles.

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“We see an appreciative core audience in North America for our stylish international content, and an attractive opportunity to take a specialized position in the world’s most dynamic streaming market,” Anders Jensen, Viaplay Group president and CEO, said in a statement.

In North America, the Viaplay app is supported by a wide range of devices and platforms, including smart-TVs; Android and iOS smartphones and tablets; Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Chromecast; and Mac and PC. The service is also available through Comcast’s Xfinity and Xumo platforms, and as part of The Roku Channel’s premium subscriptions line-up.

Viaplay is currently available in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Nordic Streamer Viaplay Expands U.S. Footprint on The Roku Channel

Scandinavia’s Viaplay Group and Roku Dec. 19 announced a multiyear partnership that makes Viaplay’s 1,500 hours of Nordic content available on The Roku Channel in the United States through subscription. The Roku Channel reached U.S. households with an estimated 80 million people at the end of 2021.

Since premiering its first original show in 2016, Viaplay has emerged as a prolific producer of Nordic content, including psychologically penetrating crime dramas — a style of screen storytelling known as “Nordic noir.” Viaplay content also includes young adult series, historical dramas, and documentaries, among other content.

Viaplay shows available on Viaplay through The Roku Channel include the Danish thriller Trom, starring Ulrich Thomsen (“The New Pope”); Swedish crime series “No Time to Mourn”; and Norway drama Exit, with Tobias Santelmann (Point Break).

“Launching on The Roku Channel offers Viaplay outstanding reach in the world’s largest streaming market,” Vanda Rapti, Viaplay Group chief commercial officer for North America and Viaplay Select, said in a statement. “Premium Nordic content has a dedicated audience in the U.S., and fans can now experience the most stylish and thrilling stories that the region has to offer.”

In addition to The Roku Channel, Viaplay is currently available in the U.S. via Comcast’s Xfinity platforms. Viaplay will make its own direct-to-consumer Viaplay app available in the U.S. with a separate launch in early 2023.

Viaplay Ups Global Pay-TV/SVOD Subs to 6.4 Million

Norwegian-based pay-TV/subscription streaming video distributor Viaplay Oct. 25 reported it ended the third quarter (Sept. 30) with 6.4 million global subscribers — up about 78% from the previous-year period when it had 3.6 million subs. The streamer, which includes limited operations in the U.S. through NBCUniversal and Comcast, added 879,000 subs in Q3.

The service topped 1 million subs in Poland and Holland. The addition of the English Premier League rights in Poland and the Netherlands contributed to the growth, together with the new distribution agreement in Poland.

Notably, Viaplay saw reduced sub growth in the Nordics, which has become a hotbed for U.S. streamers Netflix and HBO Max. Viaplay upped its year-end target for international subs to 2.7 million from 2.5 million, while reducing the Nordics subscriber forecast from 4.8 million to 4.6 million.

The overall sub target of 7.3 million remains unchanged.

“As a result of the immediate effects of the general economic slowdown on advertising and subscription sales, the lower than anticipated premium subscription sales in Norway, and the strategic decision to discontinue an unfavorable distribution agreement, we are reducing our full year Nordic organic revenue growth target by approximately 10%,” CEO Anders Jensen said in a statement. “Conversely, international sales are expected to exceed our previous expectations, and we now expect full year total group organic revenue growth of approximately 20%.

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Netflix Celebrates 10 Years in the Nordics, Remains No. 1 SVOD Service

In two days, Netflix will mark the 10th anniversary of its debut in Sweden, followed by subscription streaming access across the rest of the Nordics (Norway, Denmark, Finland). While the streamer tops subscriber households in the region to remain No. 1 in market share, new data from research group Mediavision finds the SVOD behemoth under increased competitive pressure from local streaming services.

Indeed, the launch of rival global SVOD services, including Disney+, HBO Max and Paramount+, combined with a push by regional players, Netflix this year reported first-time subscriber losses worldwide. While other streaming services enjoyed a boost during the pandemic, Mediavision analysis pointed at diminishing growth for Netflix, below the overall market trajectory following record growth in 2020.

Focusing on the Nordics as a total, Mediavision contends that the past spring was tough for Netflix in the Nordics, including losing subscriber households for the first time.

“Despite the sharp increase in competition, Netflix has remained the Nordic market leader with more than 4 million subscribing households through the fall 2022,” Mediavision wrote in in a report.

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A key to Netflix’s success has been focusing on localized content, according to Mediavision. While “Lilyhammer,” which was co-produced with NRK, the Norwegian public broadcaster, was the streamer’s first original content, Netflix was the first global SVOD player to commission Nordic originals. It started off with “The Rain,” a Danish series in the spring of 2018, followed by the Swedish original series “Quicksand,” released in early 2019. Other major titles included “Snabba Cash,” “Bordertown,” “Ragnarök” and “Borgen — Power & Glory”.

By the end of 2021, Netflix had nearly 70 Nordic originals in its library. And the titles have also attracted viewers outside the region. According to Netflix, almost two-thirds of their members globally have chosen to watch a Nordic original film or series.

Last year, Netflix expanded its Nordic presence by opening an office in Stockholm. The company also has a management team based in Copenhagen, to further support the region.

Netflix also launched a gaming service, with some operations in the Nordics, as another means of increasing consumer loyalty. The plans are to expand from today’s 24 games, to 50 by the end of the year. So far, games have been downloaded a total of 23.3 million times and average daily users are 1.7 million — less than 1% of Netflix’s 221 million subscribers.

Mediavision: Disney+ Reaches 1.7 Million Nordic Subs in Two Years

The Disney+ subscription streaming service has generated more than 1.7 million Nordic subscribers in the 24 months since launching operations on Sept. 15, 2020, in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The service, which has gained a strong foothold among households with children, is now the fourth-largest SVOD platform in the region after Netflix (with about 4 million subs), according to new data from Mediavision.

Disney’s rapid streaming success can be explained by its clear positioning within the kids and family segment and an attractive price point. As Mediavision’s analysis shows, about 20% of Disney’s streaming content library (in terms of total hours) is in the kids and family genre — and, according to the consumers’ evaluation, Disney outranks all competitors in this segment.

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“It is not an overstatement to say that Disney+ launched with a bang on the Nordic market,” Mediavision analyst Natalia Borelius wrote in a note.

The research firm said the service reached a household penetration of 10% in the Nordics after only two weeks — boosting stacking and subsequently household spend.

“However, a lot has happened these past two years,” Borelius wrote. “The streaming market is saturating, causing [services] to search for new ways to boost subscriptions and increase revenue. Many actors are betting on adding hybrid subscription/advertising tiers — and Disney+ is one of them.”

Streaming Video Represents 33% of All TV Subscriptions in the Nordics

New intel from Dataxis finds the pay-TV landscape in the Nordics has changed considerably since the introduction of OTT video services.

The region has been a testbed for some of the most popular streaming services when they first addressed the European market, with Netflix and HBO available there since 2012.

Fast-forward 10 years and the adoption of streaming services and its impact on content viewing consumption have produced a digital makeover to the local TV distribution industry.

Hollywood streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, Paramount+ and HBO Max are aggressively pursuing operations in the Nordics.

The region historically counted as one of the most developed pay-TV markets in Europe, with virtually every household subscribing to a service, and an average monthly revenue per household of €25 in 2015. But a growing number of households have pulled the plug on their traditional TV plans in favor of standalone OTT platforms, driving historical TV operators into diversifying their service portfolio and introducing more flexibility in their bundles in order to retain customers.

Due to their role as forerunners of the streaming market in Europe, the Nordics, which include Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, is the region with the largest number of streaming services.

To simplify video choices, content distributors have multiplied distribution deals with video-on-demand platforms to position themselves as super aggregators. Nordic telecoms became the preferred distributors for third-party service such as Paramount+, when it launched in the region in 2021. Britbox, the U.K.-based SVOD platform, launched in the Nordics in the first half of this year and chose C More (in Sweden, Denmark and Finland) and TV2 Sumo (in Norway) as its partners.

Streamers now represent a third of the total pay-TV subscriptions in the Nordics, against less than 18% in the rest of Western Europe. This penetration is leading to market saturation and consolidation, according to Dataxis.

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In Finland, the leading paid OTT services, Viaplay and Elisa Entertainment, operated by local telco and content producer Elisa, merged their portfolio into one bundled subscription at the end of last year.

The region’s TV broadcasters now operate their own streaming platforms, including Viaplay, which passed the 2.5 million subscribers last quarter, TV2 Play in Denmark, which reaches 800,000 households, or the Swedish platform C More, which counts around 1 million paying subs across 3 markets.

“If streaming services are less expensive to operate than historical pay TV platforms like satellite, and thus can be sold through way cheaper plans, significant pressure is put on traditional telcos to take down their prices to be able to follow up with streamers’ pricing and line of service,” Ophélie Boucaud, senior analyst at Dataxis, wrote in the report. “TV distribution revenues in the Nordics are expected to stagnate at around €2.8 billion despite a slow rise in terms of subscriptions as those will mostly count OTT plans, and more cord-cutters will switch off their expensive TV plans.”

HBO Max Downsizes European Original Content Production Plans

Looking to generate $3 billion in previously announced cost saving synergies through the $43 billion corporate combination of WarnerMedia and Discovery into Warner Bros. Discovery, the media company reportedly is pulling back on original content spending throughout parts of Europe.

The company, which includes Warner Bros., HBO, CNN and Turner, is now stopping original content spending in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Central Europe, Holland and Turkey, among other regions.

The move would appear to impact the streamer’s most-successful original content from those regions, including “Lust” (Sweden), “Kamikaze” (Denmark) and the Hungarian drama “The Informant,” among others.

“As we continue to work on combining HBO Max and Discovery+ into one global streaming service showcasing the breadth of content across Warner Bros. Discovery, we are reviewing our current content proposition on the existing services,” WBD said in a statement first reported by Variety. “Our commitment to these markets has not changed. We will continue to commission local content for Warner Bros Discovery’s linear networks in these regions and we remain substantial acquirers of local third-party content for use on our streaming services.”

Max’s pullback comes as competing streamers up local productions in order to meet European Union mandates calling for 30% local content production among foreign companies operating in the European market.

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Paramount Global, Viaplay Ink European Content Licensing Deal

Paramount Global Content Distribution and Viaplay (formerly NENT Group) have agreed to a content licensing deal spanning the Nordic and Baltic regions, Poland and the Netherlands. Viaplay subscribers in multiple markets will be able to access CBS television shows and library titles from The CW, Paramount Television Studios and Showtime.

Under the deal, titles available include shows such as “CSI: Vegas”; medical drama “Good Sam,” starring Sophia Bush and Jason Isaacs; animated comedy “HouseBroken,” with voice talents including Lisa Kudrow; and “4400,” the reimagining of the Emmy-nominated sci-fi series “The 4400.”

“We look forward to bringing a wide selection of CBS Programming and world-class library to Viaplay’s audiences,” Lisa Kramer, president of international television licensing at Paramount Global Content Distribution, said in a statement.

In the Nordic region, the agreement includes library seasons of “Elementary,” “The Good Wife,””Cheers,” “Madam Secretary,” “CSI: NY,” “90210,””King of Queens,” “Catch-22” and “Looking for Alaska.”

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Current and library titles coming to Viaplay in Poland include “Billions,” “Blood & Treasure,” “FBI: Most Wanted,” “The Good Fight,” “Hawaii Five-0,”  “A Million Little Things,” “SEAL Team,” “Survivor” and “Walker,” a reimagining of the long-running series “Walker, Texas Ranger.”

In the Netherlands, the shows available on Viaplay include “Walker,” “The Good Fight,” “Bull,” “Frasier,” “The Good Wife,” “King of Queens,” “Californication,” “Elementary,” “Madam Secretary,” and “Deadwood.”

“Paramount is one of Hollywood’s most renowned storytellers, and Viaplay viewers in 10 countries can now enjoy many of the biggest and best shows from their incredible line-up with us,” added Filippa Wallestam, Viaplay group chief content officer.

Alongside Paramount Global Content Distribution, Viaplay has long-term contractual relationships with U.S. studios, including Sony Pictures, MGM, and NBCUniversal, among others.

Pluto TV Launches AVOD Service in the Nordics

Paramount Global’s free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) and ad-supported VOD (AVOD) platform, Pluto TV, May 18 expanded to the Nordics, launching in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The service unveiled a programming line-up that features more than 70 unique and locally curated channels now live in each country.

For the first time internationally, Pluto TV will offer live sports. Bellator MMA, the leading global MMA organization, will have a dedicated channel streaming all 2022 fights exclusively in the Nordics, with many fights streaming live, in addition to bonus content and library, beginning June 24 with “Bellator 282,” featuring Dutch Middleweight World Champion Gegard Mousasi taking on undefeated No. 1 ranked contender Johnny Eblen.

Paramount’s AVOD service is launching in the Nordics through a partnership with Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group). Pluto TV will launch in combination with NENT’s AVOD service, Viafree. Following the launch, Viafree will be phased out as a standalone service.

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Pluto TV founder Tom Ryan

“Pluto TV launched with a mission to entertain the planet, and today’s highly-anticipated launch in the Nordics brings us another step closer to achieving our goal,” Tom Ryan, CEO of Paramount Streaming and founder of Pluto TV. “The union of Pluto TV and Viafree delivers the best of both worlds, debuting a frictionless and free streaming destination with something for everyone.”

Pluto TV in the Nordics features an abundance of programming, including globally recognized titles from content partners, fan favorite and exclusive titles from Paramount’s brands, as well as extensive hours of local hits from Viafree.

The content includes: Lyxfällan/Luksusfellen/Luksusfælden (“Luxury Trap”), in Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Swedish audiences can enjoy Svenska Truckers (“Swedish Truckers”) and Svenska Hollywoodfruar (“Swedish Hollywood Wives”); Danish fans can enjoy channels such as: Familien fra Bryggen (“The Kesslers”) and MasterChef — Danmarks Største Madtalenter (“MasterChef”); while Norwegian audiences can stream channels such as Eventyrlig Oppussing (“Amazing Makeovers”) and celebrity cooking show Camp Kulinaris (“Camp Kulinaris”). 

In both Denmark and Norway, audiences can stream a channel featuring the reality show “Paradise,” which will become available later this month, with new episodes released weekly, following the show’s premiere on Viaplay.

Pluto TV has also partnered with World RX to offer all 2022 live events and library races from the FIA World Rallycross Championship through the RX TV channel, available in Denmark and Norway from July 1. World RX at Höljes, Sweden, on July 2-3, will be the first live event on the 24/7 rallycross channel.

In partnership with MTV, internationally known Swedish band Mando Diao May 18 will record an MTV Unplugged performance in Stockholm. The performance will premiere exclusively on Pluto TV’s MTV Unplugged in October.   

Pluto TV will also launch with a dedicated “Star Trek” channel featuring the Star Trek franchise hits, such as “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and “Star Trek: Voyager,” among others.

Pluto TV Movies features fan-favorite titles including the sci-fi classic and Oscar nominated Dune by director David Lynch; comedy movie Dinner for Schmucks with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell; and actioner Red Dawn with Chris Hemsworth.

The platform will feature classic crime shows such as “FBI Files,” “New Detectives” and “Cops,” as well as new series “True Nordic Crimes.”

From the MTV library, Pluto TV will offer dedicated channels featuring “The Hills,” “Catfish: The TV Show” and “Ex on The Beach,” among others. Comedy Central hits shows include a dedicated 24/7 “South Park” channel along with the return of “The Daily Show,” with episodes released day-and-date with the U.S. release.

“This transformative partnership will serve as the framework as we continue to expand Pluto TV throughout Europe and in new continents, including Australia and Africa, bringing this strategic model of free streaming to the world,” said Raffaele Annecchino, CEO of international networks, studios and streaming at Paramount.