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Canal+ takes 12% minority stake in Viaplay

Nordic streaming service in process of pulling out of multiple markets and slashing workforce.

24 July 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Viaplay exiting UK sports broadcasting market to focus on Nordics and Netherlands
  • Company mulling sale of parts of its international business

French media giant Canal+ Group has acquired a 12 per cent stake in Viaplay as the Nordic streaming service prepares to cut 25 per cent of its workforce and exit several markets.

The value of the deal was not disclosed and comes following confirmation last week that Viaplay will withdraw from the UK, having only launched there last November, as well as the US and the Baltics in order to focus on its core services in the Nordics and the Netherlands.

Stockholm-headquartered Viaplay Group’s international streaming ambitions have been hit by subscriber churn and lower advertising revenue, while costs of its expansion have also risen. It prompted the company to replace chief executive Anders Jensen with Jorgen Madsen Lindemann in June and switch to a new operating model based around country management teams taking full responsibility of daily operations and strategic development.

Full year Viaplay operating losses are expected to be between SEK850 million (US$81.7 million) and SEK1.05 billion (US$100.9 million) for 2023. Operating income for the second quarter was down SEK6.5 billion (US$625 million) with net income of minus SEK5.8 billion (US$558 million) for the period. Viaplay also lost around one million total subscribers in Q2, falling to about 6.6 million.

Canal+’s stake in the business follows suggestions Viaplay could seek a partial sale, with Lindemann saying the company’s “content in international markets will hopefully lead to interest but it is too premature to give an idea of how advanced this is”.

Canal+ and Viaplay have existing ties through various territory agreements, which sees the latter’s content feature on the French network across the likes of Austria and Poland. Canal+ has made no secret of its desire to build a streaming service that can compete with other global players and it could view Viaplay as the next step in that ambition.

The stake in Viaplay adds to Canal+’s minority shareholding in Asian over-the-top (OTT) service Viu. Canal+ is also set to complete the acquisition of rival streamer OCS, in which it has a 33 per cent stake. The Vivendi-owned broadcaster’s notable overseas sports rights contracts include English soccer’s Premier League in the Czech Republic and Slovakia from 2022 to 2025.

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