Scandinavian Viaplay defends its streaming model ahead of its UK launch
The main European challenger to the US streaming giants has urged investors to look past Netflix’s struggles, arguing there is plenty of room for growth as it prepares to launch in the UK this fall .
Anders Jensen, chief executive of Viaplay Group, told the Financial Times that his Swedish company’s mix of high-profile football and Nordic dark drama was “very, very resilient” in the face of the cost-of-living crisis, even in as Netflix, HBO and Disney subscribers. abandoned one or more streaming services.
“One thing we’ve seen since Netflix started to decline is that people are saying there’s a problem for the streaming industry, and that’s not what we’re seeing.” he declared. “Today is a bit of a red flag given that our performance is very different from some of our peers. It is wrong to define the streaming industry by a peer.
Netflix spooked investors in April by revealing that its decade-long subscriber growth was over. The decline continued into the second quarter as the US company lost another 1 million subscribers.
But Viaplay, which is expanding from its Nordic base to the UK and US later this year, said Thursday that it had added nearly a million new subscribers in the second quarter, bringing the total to 5.5 million. It has also acquired Premier Sports, a British sports streaming service which owns the rights to Scottish and Spanish football as well as some rugby competitions.
Viaplay is touting its sports business as a key differentiator to Netflix and HBO, with the Swedish group set to secure the rights to show the Premier League in the Netherlands, Poland and the Baltic states from next month .
Jensen said Viaplay competes more with traditional broadcasters and doesn’t ask customers to choose between it and Netflix.
“We couldn’t compete with Netflix on their half. Sport is therefore the bridge, which sets us apart in a unique way. For us it’s a mix [between drama and sport]. This is the only way for a regional player to compete with global players. We are not here to replace them,” he added.
Viaplay is getting off to a relatively small start in the UK with rights including national team matches for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in football as well as the Scottish Cups, La Liga in Spain and the Coppa Italia alongside the French Rugby Top 14 and the United Rugby Championship.
Jensen predicted that the de facto sharing of UK sports rights between Sky and BT would come to an end. “It’s sustainable for a while, but over time it can’t be because the market is too big and the interests in the sport are so diverse,” he said.
The Viaplay chief executive said the general trend in the cost of sports rights was down but top competitions like the Premier League were “flat at best”. The group aims for exclusive rights when they buy them and said the current UK model – where games are shared between Sky, BT and Amazon – “could come under pressure”.