Inside the US and UK shots of Scandinavian streamer Viaplay

Viaplay, the ambitious Scandinavian streaming service of the NENT group, is set to expand its presence in several key markets around the world.

The company, whose recent blockbuster shows include “Porni,” “Those Who Kill,” and “Honor,” just unveiled its plan to launch in the UK in the second half of 2022, and in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and in Austria in 2023. Viaplay is currently available in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland, in addition to Scandinavia, and aims to be present in 16 markets by the end of 2023.

Anders Jensen, President and CEO of the NENT Group, spoke with Variety on how the company will capitalize on the fan base for Nordic black content; position yourself in today’s crowded streaming landscape; and navigate fragmented content rights.

Congratulations on announcing a launch in five other markets. I expected France to be part of it!

Well, France is definitely within our reach, and there will be more chapters in our journey. But it’s a matter of timing, availability and how we tailor the platform. If you see the new markets that we are announcing today, they are grouped around two languages, English and German. It has an impact on how we build and develop the platform. So I hope I can say more about this in the not-so-distant future.

The English and German languages ​​certainly give you access to the best markets.

With the English core of the platform we have built, the UK, English-speaking Canada and the US, of course, are important markets with a lot of potential. And then with the German language, we have Germany, Austria and German-speaking Switzerland. And then obviously we will want to add Spanish and French at a later stage, it is a natural evolution for us. So we’re gonna get there.

The UK and US are highly competitive markets where there is already a lot of premium content available. How do you think you can prosper?

These are very competitive markets, but we bring something unique. Of course, we don’t think we’re the market leader in any of these markets. But there is a niche or a specialized approach to our Nordic storytelling from the start, then an evolution to a more international European storytelling.

It has a very attractive audience, and we can deliver it at a price that the consumer can afford. It would be very attractive. The price in the United States would be $ 4.99 as an example. Then you get thousands of hours of international content. It is a specialty product for a fairly large segment in both UK, Germany and USA. There are large groups of fans of what we generally call Nordic black, and this is something we want to capitalize on.

In terms of potential in each market, how many subscribers are you looking to attract in the UK?

We do not guide market by market for competitive reasons. We are only talking about aggregate figures, as we have done in the Nordic countries. We are now targeting 6 million subscribers in the Nordic countries and 6 million international subscribers.

What have you observed in the new markets you have entered outside of Scandinavia?

Based on our experience in distributing content to local platforms and local broadcasters, we have found that there is an appetite for our content for sure. Now we want to put everything exclusively on Viaplay and make it a customer proposition. In the future, we will make local productions in more or less all the markets, then these productions will go to the other markets. So it becomes a content ecosystem. For example, we will be producing in the Netherlands. We will be producing in Poland, which we are already doing. We will also be producing in the UK, which we are already doing. So there is a lot going on.

Do you also continue to make unscripted content, even though you recently sold your unscripted assets to Fremantle?

We do a lot of unscripted in the Nordic markets because of the legacy, the background. But the unscripted is very local, while the scripted drama travels. It has much more multi-market potential. So you will see us remaining fairly stable on the unscripted, but we will be increasing scripting considerably in all markets in the years to come.

If you start producing local scripted content in new markets, will they still have that Nordic Noir touch you mentioned earlier? Will you seek to employ Nordic directors or screenwriters on their international shows?

That’s a very good question. Nordic storytelling is not just about language. It’s an approach to the way stories are told, the way dialogue is written, down to the lightning. There is a specific element that can be seen in a lot of international productions, even American ones, where there is this Nordic atmosphere. And it’s something that we produce more than anyone else in the world, and it’s also something that we want to contribute. And yes, there may very well be a Nordic director shooting a show in Germany. The show would then be in German, but it would have that Nordic flavor. So we have ideas. You will see more of what I mean in the next few years.

Plus, in the United States, you could do some big shows that could be global hits.

You are absolutely right. And, of course, that is our ambition. But we are very disciplined, also financially. So we want to evolve this step by step in a smart way, to make sure that we can attract more people. Obviously, as we are growing so fast, we are hiring a lot of people every day now. And the talent race 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 average budget are you looking for in terms of scripted series? What is the maximum you want to spend per episode?

There is no maximum to be honest, as it depends on the potential. So it’s a matter of risk and reward for us. But if you look at the average investment in a production, the range is quite large. So you can talk about the series that we are currently producing. Some of them are very inexpensive series. We can therefore make a series of six episodes for 3.5 million euros (4.1 million dollars) to 4 million euros (4.7 million dollars); but we are also investing € 15 million ($ 17.6 million) to € 20 million ($ 23.4 million) in other issues.

Are you going to have offices in each country you go into?

We will have real operations in the countries where we do sport, like Poland and the Netherlands and the Baltic countries, and of course, the Nordic countries. There we will have local studios with experts, hosts and local producers. In the UK we already have an office. It remains to be seen whether we will open an office in Germany, Austria or the United States.

But to develop good content and make good acquisitions, it is often essential to have people on the ground isn’t it?

We need the local people. We must have locals. So we hired a number of executive producers for Poland and put together the sports team. We are doing the same for the Netherlands now, and we are looking for talent in new markets as we speak. So you are 100% right. We can’t have the right atmosphere in Austria or Canada if we don’t have people who understand this market.

You are involved in a lot of shows with other partners, for example “The Last Light”, the upcoming series with Matthew Fox that we recently announced. It was commissioned by Peacock in the United States. Once you launch in the United States or other markets, how are you going to manage the rights?

Well, it’s going to be a mix between shows where we control the global rights, which means we control all the markets. And in some markets we will have rights and some we will have a first window and others a second window which will differ a bit. And you could say we’re mostly buying global rights now. But “Last Light” was decided a few years ago. This is an evolution for us as it is for virtually anyone who sells their content on all platforms, but it will be increasingly controlled global rights for us in the future.

Looking to become the next Netflix?

Well, not at home. I think they are world champions at what they do. We will want to be world champions in what we do. And I think there is room for both of us.

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