Swedish Streamer Viaplay Lost 298,000 International Subs in 2023 After Exiting International Markets, Including U.S.

Swedish media giant Viaplay’s ambitious plans to launch Nordic-themed streaming content globally backfired spectacularly in 2023, resulting in a $270.1 million net loss, and 25% in staff cuts, including the departure of CEO Anders Jensen, who was replaced by Jorgen Madsen Lindemann.

The streamer ended last year with 2.39 million international subscribers, down 298,000 subs from 2.69 million at the end of 2022. The company lost 519,000 subs in the Nordics, ending the year with 4.1 million.

The company March 28 reported its “Annual & Sustainability Report” aimed at reassuring investors following developments in the last year, which saw the company sell its U.K. operations, withdraw from the Baltics and North America, and exit Poland by the middle of 2025.

Viaplay’s U.S. SVOD service remains carried by Roku, Comcast, and Xumo.

“Too many of the past investments made by the group did not materialize as planned, as several of the business cases on which they were based proved to be too optimistic,” Simon Duffy, Viaplay interim chairman, said in a statement. “Significant adjustments were therefore required to the group’s strategy, structure and operating model.”

This year, Viaplay is refocusing distribution efforts on the Nordics market, including upping live sports, movie and TV content.

“Our subscription services are available each month for less than it costs to take family or friends out to the movies, or to a live sports event if one could even get a ticket,” CEO Lindemann said in a statement. “The volume of original scripted output on Viaplay has been higher than most other streaming platforms, so we are reducing our output and selling or licensing selected titles.”

Indeed, the platform licenses seasons of “Wallander” to BritBox International and “The Tunnel” to Prime Video, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel and Tubi. It also offered the drama “Thicker Than Water” for rent on Prime Video, Google Play and Fandango.

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Netflix: Sweden’s ‘The Abyss’ Tops ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Series Debut on Weekly Chart

Sweden’s natural disaster thriller The Abyss maintained the No. 1 overall spot on Netflix’s weekly chart, generating 22.3 million views, to hold off the series debut of “Avatar: The Last Airbender” with 21.2 million views after four days on the TV chart, for the week ended Feb. 25. 

In the lead-up to the release of the live-action reimagining of the animated series, fans were treated to sneak-peek scenes and a takeover of the Sphere in Las Vegas.

Tyler Perry’s Mea Culpa, the debut thriller starring Kelly Rowland, topped the English-language movie chart, with 16 million views (No. 3 overall).

The Japanese thriller House of Ninjas muscled into the lead spot on the non-English language TV chart with 4.5 million views.

“One Day,” the limited series adapted from David Nicholls’ romance novel, finished No. 2 (7.5 million views) on the English-language TV chart. Season six of the reality dating show “Love Is Blind” (7.5 million views) followed at No. 3.

The romantic comedy Players, starring Gina Rodriguez and Damon Wayans Jr., added 7.4 million views to land at No. 2 on the English-language movie chart. 

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Spain’s two-time Oscar nominee Society of the Snow, from director J.A. Bayona, spent its eighth week on the non-English language movie chart with 2.1 million views. Finally, season three of the Brazilian thriller “Good Morning, Veronica” finished at No. 5 in its second week on the non-English language TV chart (2 million views), and season one returned to the chart in 10th place with 1.1 million views.  

Netflix Bows Trailer for ‘Barracuda Queens’ Swedish Girls Heist Series

Netflix April 27 bowed the trailer for its new original series “Barracuda Queens,” a Swedish girl gang heist series in an upper-class setting, loosely inspired by true events.

The series stars Alva Bratt, Tindra Monsen, Sandra Zubovic, Tea Stjärne, Sarah Gustafsson and Izabella Scorupco, and premieres on Netflix June 5.

The series revolves around four privileged girls from Djursholm, who call themselves the “Barracuda Queens” from their days partying on Barracuda Beach. In a moment of desperation, when hit with a huge party bill, the girls hatch a reckless plan to rob their new neighbor Amina’s house. Things don’t exactly go as planned, but luckily Amina is more interested in joining the gang than pressing charges. Together, the girls become involved in an escalating campaign of house burglaries targeting their obnoxious rich neighbors. By day they are high-achieving students and daughters but by night, they are ruthless thieves — seeking thrills, liberation and revenge on men that have done them wrong.

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Viaplay Streaming Platform Tops 2.9 Million Q1 International Subs, Including U.S.

Sweden’s Viaplay media giant April 25 disclosed it concluded the first quarter (ended March 31) with 2.9 million international subscription streaming VOD subscribers, up 140% from 1.2 million subs in the previous-year period. The company said it remains on schedule to end the year with 4 million international subscribers, on top of 5 million subs in the Nordic region, which includes Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

Viaplay, which added SVOD service U.S. and Canada, and partnerships in Austria and Germany, now offers streaming content in 33 global markets.

“Our Viaplay subscriber base grew by 60% compared with the same period last year,” CEO Anders Jensen wrote in the shareholder letter. “Our investments in content and technology are paying off, and Viaplay continues to be the primary growth driver for the Viaplay Group, accounting for 52% of total sales and generating organic revenue growth of 68% year-over-year.”

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Mediavision: Transactional VOD Use Hits Record in Sweden

Almost 30% of Swedish households rented or bought digital movies monthly in 2022 — a new record for TVOD use in the Nordic country, according to new data from Mediavision.

Last year, the number of moviegoers in Sweden was still 5.5 million lower than in 2019, the year before the pandemic began, according to the Swedish Cinema Owners Association.

Compared to 2021, TVOD has grown 15%, which is a new record level. This also means that household spending on TVOD has increased by nearly 6% compared to 2021. The average monthly spend for households that bought/rented video online was SEK 145 ($14). Movies is what most households rented, unlike other paid streaming services where series are the most popular content.

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The fact that many major content titles were launched on subscription SVOD services (such as Netflix, Viaplay or Disney+) during last year does not seem to have had a negative impact, according to Marie Nilsson, CEO at Mediavision.

“Consumers clearly appreciate the digital rental services and, unlike cinema, they do not seem to think that the supply has been negatively affected by the pandemic,” Nilsson said in a statement.

Swedish Thriller ‘Mareld’ Due on Digital Aug. 9 From Mill Creek

Mutiny Pictures’ Swedish psychological thriller Mareld will be released on digital Aug. 9 from Mill Creek Entertainment.

In the story, a film crew sets sail on a catamaran to film a horror film where the scenes are improvised in chronological order, keeping the cast in the dark about the story. But what happens behind the scenes may be the real horror.

Director Ove Valeskog mixes documentary style with narrative film, blending lush cinematography with behind-the-scenes documentary film and blurring the boundary between fiction and reality. 

Mareld stars Hanna Oldenburg (Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Animalistic), Viktor Akerblom (Border, Agent Hamilton), Moa Malan (The Giant) and Matti Boustedt (The Unlikely Murder). 

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The film has won more than 50 awards (and been nominated for 34 more) at film festivals around the world, including the Around International Film Festival, New York International Film Awards and IndieFEST Film Awards. It picked up Best Feature at the Creation International Film Festival 2021.

Sweden Ups SVOD Sub Base by 350,000 — Thanks to Disney+

New data from research firm Mediavision contends Sweden added 350,000 SVOD subscribers in the past 12 months — driven in large part (50%) by the global expansion of Disney+.

Sweden, along with the rest of the Nordics, has always been a hotbed for subscription streaming video — particularly Netflix. 

Indeed, Sweden, with a population of 10 million, generated the equivalent of a third of Netflix’s 950,000 North American (pop. 596 million) net sub additions over the past 12 months.

Netflix remains the most popular service in Swedish households, followed by Viaplay and Disney+. Netflix dominates in households that only subscribe to one service, but combinations of Netflix, Viaplay and Disney+ are the most common among households with multiple subscriptions.

The data suggests that in Sweden there remains a strong demand for new and attractive SVOD services, despite household penetration remaining stable. It is still possible to successfully establish a new SVOD brand in Sweden as households stack services.

“A contributing factor to [SVOD sub growth] could be that new services often launch at a highly competitive price,” Marie Nilsson, CEO of Mediavision, said in a statement. The executive believes households simply add SVOD services without terminating existing platforms.

“Recently, we have seen this pricing strategy also being applied at the launch of HBO Max,” she said. “There is reason to believe that aggressive price strategies will push stacking in the streaming households even further.”

Netflix Begins Production of Original Swedish Series

Netflix Feb. 12 announced it has begun production on a new Swedish original series, “Love & Anarchy,” in Stockholm.

The cast includes Ida Engvoll, Reine Brynolfsson, Björn Kjellman, Johannes Bah Kuhnke, Gizem Erdogan and Björn Mosten, who makes his acting debut. The series is created by screenwriter and director Lisa Langseth, and produced by FLX, the production company behind “Quicksand,” the first Swedish original series for Netflix about a school shooting that takes place in a posh suburb of Stockholm.

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The eight part series features Sofie (Engvoll), a career driven consultant and married mother of two. When Sofie gets an assignment to modernize an old publishing house she meets young IT tech Max (Mosten), and an unexpected flirtatious game begins.

Sofie and Max secretly challenge each other to do things that question societal norms. It starts innocently enough, but as the game gets more and more daring, the consequences grow beyond proportions. The series launches exclusively on Netflix later this year.

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‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ Drive HBO Nordic Sub Growth

Scandinavia (especially Sweden) has long been a hotbed for subscription streaming video. HBO launched its first over-the-top video service — HBO Nordic — long before the domestic rollout of HBO Now in 2014.

HBO Nordic remains a formidable competitor to Netflix and other local SVOD services notably this year thanks to “Game of Thrones” and “Big Little Lies,” among other programming.

New data from Mediavision contends the final season of “Thrones” and second season of “Lies” jumpstarted HBO Nordic subscriber growth to more than 200,000 members in Sweden in the second quarter (ended June 30) — up 50% from the previous-year period.

By comparison, market leader Netflix grew 14% year-over-year.

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Mediavision believes the sub growth can also be attributed to new seasons of “Big Little Lies,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” — the latter available in the U.S. exclusively on Hulu. HBO’s original (created by Comcast-owned Sky) miniseries — “Chernobyl” — also received a strong reception from both Swedish audiences and critics.

As is the trend globally among OTT and traditional media distributors, original content is driving subscriber interest. But it’s not just global services that are increasing their content investments.

In Sweden, both C More and Viaplay have launched new drama series, in addition to extending existing episodic programming. Viaplay’s owner NENT has announced that it intends to launch six new original series in 2019.

Netflix, of course, has taken original content one step further. Its Swedish original series, “Greatest of all,” is produced for Netflix by the Swedish production company FLX — a strategy the SVOD pioneer is emulating in markets worldwide.

“We are moving towards a period where the value of many and strong titles is likely to increase further,” Marie Nilsson, CEO of Mediavision, said in a statement. “The hunt for new customers is also learning to intensify, as major players such as Disney and Apple are ready to enter Sweden, too. This will help drive the streaming market further.”

Study: Online TV Is Second-Most-Popular TV Viewing Choice in U.K., Sweden and Germany

A new survey of TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany found that online TV is now the second most popular viewing source behind pay-TV, with usage ranging from just under 40% in Germany to more than 50% in the U.K. and Sweden.

Nielsen company Gracenote and digital media analyst firm nScreenMedia conducted the survey, “TV Universe — U.K., Sweden, Germany: How People Watch Television Today,” in the first quarter of 2019, focusing on pay TV, free-to-air and online TV viewership in the three European countries that account for 31% of the European Union’s total population, according to Statista.

The online TV viewership growth in the three countries “is a remarkable rise as online TV is a relatively new offering,” according to the research firms. In fact, Netflix launched in the United Kingdom in just 2012. Whereas 12 years ago most homes relied on a single-source for TV, today nearly half of viewers in all three of the countries studied are multi-source television households, the researchers noted.

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“Consumer behavior relating to TV viewing is changing rapidly in Europe as it is around the world,” said Simon Adams, chief product officer, Gracenote, in a statement.

Pay TV is currently the most popular television source in the U.K. and Sweden with nearly two in three consumers in each market using it, the survey found, but in Germany the most popular source is free-to-air TV, which accounts for the vast majority of viewers at nearly eight in 10.

In all three European markets surveyed, consumers pointed to on-screen program guides and user interfaces as being critical tools for finding content to watch. Six in 10 viewers indicated visual imagery and TV artwork displayed in guides exert important influence on their viewing choices. Among the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, the number jumped up to around 90%. In addition, respondents indicated TV show and movie descriptions that shed light on content are also factors in their tune-in decision-making, with 70% of U.K. viewers, 65% of Swedes and 57% of Germans saying the program descriptions were at least somewhat important.

The study also found free-to-air TV is gaining traction on mobile with more free-to-air viewers using broadcaster apps to supplement viewing than pay TV viewers use their operator “TV Everywhere” apps. In fact, more than half of free-to-air users in each country use broadcaster apps.

The smart TV is the preferred device to watch video content on in all three countries, according to the study. A significant 70% of total viewing time is on the TV screen in the United Kingdom and Germany, while in Sweden, it is 60%. Samsung is the most popular TV brand in all three countries.

Other insights include:

  • 17% of the U.K. study group use all three TV sources available to them, higher than in Sweden and Germany;
  • While the on-screen guide is the dominant way Swedes and Brits find content to watch, newspaper TV guides and channel flipping are the main ways for Germans; and
  • 31% of Swedes consider online TV to be their primary TV source, the highest of the three countries studied.

 

“The new TV Universe study shows that online TV has become the second most popular source of TV entertainment in a remarkably short period of time,” said Colin Dixon, founder and chief analyst at nScreenMedia in a statement. “Also telling is the fact that, though most online viewing takes place on the television, consumers don’t have the discovery tools they need to efficiently find something to watch there. Features such as voice and cross-service search are thinly used in each country. There is also plenty of room for improvement with content recommendations as a quarter or less think they accurately reflect their interests.”

The consumer research study conducted from February to March 2019 surveyed 1,500 adult TV viewers in the United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden. The data was weighted to represent the general population of each country. The full report is available for free download now at nScreenMedia.com.