- Viaplay only launched in the UK last year
- Sports rights include URC, NHL, LaLiga and Uefa qualifiers
Streaming service Viaplay has confirmed plans to exit the UK in order to focus on its core markets in the Nordics and the Netherlands just a year after it acquired Premier Sports to build out its sporting portfolio.
The company has struggled with the costs of its rapid expansion, as well as subscriber churn and lower advertising revenue, leading to a restructure and the departure of former chief executive Anders Jensen in June.
His replacement, Jorgen Madsen Lindemann, had already warned that revenues would be significantly lower than previous forecasts and confirmed the scale of the challenges while presenting the firm’s second quarter results.
Lindemann said investments in some content were just not paying off and that the pursuit of more subscribers had come at the expense of value.
He said Viaplay would conduct a wide-ranging review and programme of cost-cutting measures that will also see it reduce its workforce by a quarter, as well as lead to a departure from non-core markets. This includes not just the UK, but also the US, Canada, Poland and the Baltics.
The manner of the departure is still to be determined, with a sale or winding down a possibility.
“Going forward, our focus will be on the Nordic markets with the new operating model in place, on the right content mix, on the development of our soon to be profitable Dutch operations, and on the sale of our content internationally through Viaplay Select,” said Lindemann.
“We are focusing our attention and resources on those markets where we can compete for the long term, and ensuring that our products are relevant, popular and generate healthy returns.”
Viaplay’s decision to exit the UK will be a setback to rights holders who had hoped additional competition would drive revenues, but an even bigger blow to those already working with the company. Viaplay’s struggles were well-documented but the sudden departure is surprising given its previous investments.
The platform’s menu of Nordic drama and live sport was a curious one, but it had established a solid portfolio of rights boosted by the UK£30 million (US$38.7 million) acquisition of Premier Sports. This included the United Rugby Championship (URC), the National Hockey League (NHL), the Scottish Cup, LaLiga, Uefa’s international qualifiers, as well as handball, winter sports and darts.
A third party could be interested in Viaplay’s subscriber base and its eclectic content range to bolster their own sports streaming ambitions. If not, some of the properties might be concerned about their prospects elsewhere.
The Premier League will also be keeping an eye on proceedings, given Viaplay owns the rights to English soccer’s top flight in Poland and the Baltics and is a much bigger player in both territories.