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Viaplay replaces CEO Anders Jensen and downgrades financial outlook

Jorgen Madsen Lindemann succeeds Jensen at Nordic media giant.

6 June 2023 Ed Dixon

Viaplay Group

  • Changes come amid downturn in TV ad market and subscriber churn
  • Viaplay expects to end Q2 with 7.7m subs and sales of up to SEK4.6bn
  • Macroeconomic headwinds mean company pivots to ‘execute differently’ on strategy

Nordic media giant Viaplay Group has announced that its chief executive Anders Jensen has stepped down and will be replaced by Jorgen Madsen Lindemann.

Jensen (pictured above) had been in the job for more than five years but his departure comes amid a sharp deterioration in the TV and radio advertising markets, as well as rising subscriber churn driven by the rising cost of living.

Viaplay has also withdrawn its long-term operational and financial guidance. The company now expects to close the second quarter with 7.7 million subscribers and sales of between SEK4.5 billion (US$416 million) and SEK4.6 billion (US$425 million). Advertising revenues are forecast to be down between 12 per cent and 16 per cent.

The downgrade by Viaplay was attributed to the lower demand in the Nordic and international streaming direct-to-consumer (DTC) subscriber markets, and lower wholesale subscription sales by linear distribution partners. The company also cited the accelerated deterioration of the Scandinavian TV and radio advertising markets, and the slower delivery of cost savings programmes.

Viaplay added that ‘transactional FX [foreign exchange] headwinds’ have increased and are not expected to recover until the end of the year.  

Lindemann comes in as Jensen’s replacement effective immediately, having served as chief executive of Modern Times Group (MTG), the previous parent company of Viaplay Group. Prior to that, Lindemann held various senior leadership positions at MTG over 26 years, including head of Nordic operations and international operations, and head of sports rights acquisition and production.

“The outlook for the markets in which we are operating has shifted considerably and at a very rapid pace, and the execution of cost savings programmes has not been mitigating the effects from these conditions to a sufficient extent,” said Pernille Erenbjerg, chair of the Viaplay Group board.

“The impact of the macroeconomic headwinds on the business require that we execute differently on our strategy. With more than 30 years of experience in the entertainment industry and leading Nordic and international businesses, we are confident that Jorgen has the right profile to lead this work.

“The overall strategic direction of the company is unchanged and Jorgen, together with the board and his leadership team, will evaluate the need for structural, operational, and capital allocation enhancements to the delivery of the strategy.“

Jensen added: “I remain confident of the success that lies ahead for the company. But I also feel that, in the light of current challenges, the company is best served if I step down, and I have therefore decided to do so. I wish the company and the team the very best in the future.”

Lindemann said he was “very much looking forward to the opportunity to be part of leading Viaplay Group through the currently challenging times, and delivering on the next phase of its development”.

SportsPro says…

Viaplay’s downgraded outlook and decision to bring in a new chief executive comes after it rolled out its streaming service to notable markets such as the US and the UK. The company has also beefed up its sports rights portfolio and acquired Premier Sports to expand its offering in Britain.

The purchase of pay-TV network Premier Sports last July in a UK£30 million (US$37.4 million) deal was part of Viaplay’s wider plan to establish its streaming product in international markets. In Premier Sports’ case, the acquisition meant the Stockholm-based broadcaster ended up with rights to the likes of Spanish soccer’s LaLiga, the Uefa Nations League, Uefa Euro 2024 qualifiers and the Scottish Cup. Other offerings include the United Rugby Championship (URC), the National Hockey League (NHL) and Nascar in the UK.

Viaplay looked as though it wasn’t finished there. It was reported last November that the company was considering a bid for English Football League (EFL) rights, though Sky Sports retained these in a record UK£935 million (US$1.2 billion) agreement covering the 2024/25 to 2028/29 cycle. Viaplay had also been linked with a bid for domestic Premier League rights.

The financial downgrade and likely tightening of budgets has surely put paid to any ambitions Viaplay had of snapping up a package to English soccer’s top flight. Having already delayed a planned launch in Germany, Austria and Switzerland (DACH), the company may need to reassess its international goals for its streaming service – particularly when it comes to rights acquisitions.

Change is coming at Viaplay, but not in the way it would have envisaged.

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