The company, whose recent hit shows include “Porni,” “Those Who Kill” and “Honour,” just unveiled its plan to launch in the U.K. in the second half of 2022, and in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Austria in 2023. Viaplay is currently available in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland, on top of Scandinavia, and is aiming to be present in 16 markets by the end of 2023.
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Anders Jensen, NENT Group president and CEO, spoke to Variety about how the company will capitalize on the fan base for Nordic noir content; position itself in today’s crowded streaming landscape; and navigate fragmented content rights.
Congratulations on announcing a launch in five more markets. I was expecting France to be part of it!
Well, France is definitely within our scope, and there will be more chapters in our journey. But it’s a matter of timing, availability, and how we scale the platform. If you see the new markets that we’re announcing today, they are clustered around two languages, English and German. That has an impact on how we build and develop the platform. So hopefully I’ll be able to say more about that in a not-too-distant future.
The English and German languages definitely give you access to top markets.
With the English core of the platform that we have been building, the U.K., English-speaking Canada and the U.S., of course, are significant markets with a lot of potential. And then with the German language, we have Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland. And then obviously we’ll want to add Spanish and French at a later stage, it’s a natural evolution for us. So we will get there.
The U.K. and U.S. are highly competitive markets where there is already a lot of premium content available. How do you think you can thrive?
They are very competitive markets, but we bring something that is unique. Of course, we don’t believe that we’re going to be the market leader in any of these markets. But there is a niche or a specialized approach to our Nordic storytelling from the beginning, and then an evolution into a more international European storytelling.
It has a very attractive audience, and we can deliver this on price point for the consumer. That would be very attractive. The price in the U.S. would be $4.99 as an example. Then you get thousands of hours of international content. It is a specialized product for a fairly large segment in both the U.K., Germany and the U.S. There are big fan groups of what we typically call Nordic noir, and that is something we want to capitalize on.
In terms of potential in each market, how many subscribers are you looking to draw in the U.K.?
We don’t guide on a market by market basis for competitive reasons. We only talk about aggregate numbers, as we have been doing in the Nordics. We are aiming now at 6 million subs in the Nordics and 6 million subs internationally.
What have you observed in the new markets where you launched outside of Scandinavia?
Based on our experience distributing content to local platforms and to local broadcasters, we’ve seen that there is an appetite for our content for sure. Now, we want to put everything exclusively on Viaplay and make that a customer proposition. Going forward, we will do local productions in more or less all markets, and then those productions will travel to the other markets. So it becomes an ecosystem of content. For instance, we will produce in the Netherlands. We will produce in Poland, which we already are doing. We will produce in the U.K. as well, which we also have been doing already. So there are a lot of things going on.
You’re also continuing to do non-scripted content, even though you have recently sold you unscripted assets to Fremantle?
We’re doing quite a lot of non-scripted in the Nordic markets because of the heritage, the background. But non-scripted is very local, whereas scripted drama travels. It has much more multi-market potential. So you will see us stay pretty stable on non-scripted, but we will ramp up considerably on the scripted in all markets in the coming years.
If you start producing local scripted content in the new markets, will they still have that Nordic Noir touch you mentioned earlier? Will you look to have Nordic directors or screenwriters work on their international shows?
It’s a very good question. Nordic storytelling is not just about the language. It is an approach to the way stories are told, in the way the dialogue is written, all the way down to the lightning. There is a specific element you can see in quite a lot of international productions, even American productions, where there is this Nordic vibe to it. And that is something that we produce more than anybody else in the world, and that’s also something that we want to bring. And yes, there may very well be a Nordic director shooting a show in Germany. The show would then be in German language, but it’d have this Nordic flavor to it. So we do have some ideas. You will see more of what I mean in the next couple of years.
Also, in the U.S. you could do some big shows that could be global hits.
You’re absolutely right. And, of course, that’s our ambition. But we’re very disciplined, also financially. So we want to scale this step by step in a smart way, make sure that we can attract more people. Obviously, since we’re growing so fast, we are hiring a lot of people every day now. And the race for talent is extremely important to us. We want to develop the best, we want to retain the best, and we want to attract the best.
What’s the average budget that you’re looking for in terms of scripted series? What’s the maximum you want to spend per episode?
There is no maximum to be honest, because it depends on the potential. So it’s a risk and reward matter for us. But if you look at the average investment in a production, the range is quite significant. So you can talk about the series that we’re currently producing. Some of them are very cheap series. So we can do a six-episode series for €3.5 million ($4.1 million) to €4 million ($4.7 million); but we’re also investing €15 million ($17.6 million) to €20 million ($23.4 million) on some other shows.
Are you going to have offices in each country where you launch?
We’ll have real operations in the countries where we do sports, like Poland and Netherlands and the Baltics, and of course, the Nordics. There we’ll have local studios with local experts, hosts and producers. In the U.K., we already have an office. Whether we open an office in Germany or Austria or the U.S. remains to be seen.
But in order to develop the right content and make good acquisitions, it’s often key to have people on the ground isn’t it?
We need local people. We must have local people. So we’ve been hiring now a number of executive producers for Poland and we’ve built up the sports team. We’re doing the same for the Netherlands now, and we’re looking for talent in the new markets as we speak. So you’re 100% right. We cannot get the right vibe in Austria or in Canada if we don’t have people who understand that market.
You’re involved in so many shows with other partners, for instance “The Last Light,” the upcoming series with Matthew Fox that we recently announced. It’s been ordered by Peacock in the U.S. Once you launch in the U.S. or in other markets, how are you going to deal with rights?
Well, it’s going to be a mix between shows where we control global rights, meaning that we control all markets. And in some markets, we will have some rights and some we will have first window and some we will have second windows that will differ a little bit. And you could argue we are buying mostly global rights now. But “Last Light” was decided a couple of years ago. That’s an evolution for us like it is for basically everybody who has been selling their content across platforms, but it will be more and more controlled global rights for us going forward.
Are you looking to become the next Netflix?
Well, not on their home turf. I think they are world champions in what they’re doing. We will want to be world champions in what we’re doing. And I think there’s room for both of us.
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