Viaplay Ramps Up UK Ambitions with Slate of Live Sports Rights

Tim Cross 24 March, 2022 

Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) this morning announced it has picked up a slate of live sport rights deals specifically for the UK market, in preparation for the UK launch of its subscription streaming service Viaplay later this year. The company says the move marks an “increase in its ambition” for the UK, where Viaplay is set to launch in the latter half of this year.

NENT has initially focussed on sports with an established Nordic connection, meaning the selection of live sports available at launch will be fairly niche. These include multi-year rights for the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships, ISU figure skating and speed skating, and various EHF Handball tournaments.

But the broadcaster says that it has significant ambitions for live sports in the UK. “These long-term rights show Viaplay’s commitment to streaming sports in the UK,” said Peter Nørrelund, NENT Group’s chief sports officer. “Each has a dedicated audience and will give us a foundation to expand further over time. In our current European markets, live sports are our home turf and we look forward to bringing our expert coverage to fans in the UK.”

And in other markets, Viaplay has picked up more mainstream sports packages. In the Netherlands and Finland, Viaplay is home to Formula 1 – a particularly valuable deal in the former thanks to the current success of Dutch driver Max Verstappen. So Viaplay could similarly pursue more mainstream sports packages in the UK further down the line.

This live sport content will sit alongside Viaplay’s selection of original Nordic content, and other licensed shows and films. NENT Group president and CEO Anders Jensen said he believes this combination will help Viaplay quickly establish itself in the UK market.

Europe’s unexpected streaming star

Today’s news signals an increase in Viaplay’s ambition in the UK specifically. But for a while now, Viaplay has proven itself to be one of Europe’s most ambition streaming services when it comes to expanding outside its home markets.

The likes of France’s Salto, Spain’s LOVEStv, and Germany’s Joyn and RTL+ have so far avoided international expansion, focussing instead on establishing themselves as local champions at home. But Viaplay believes its specialism in Nordic content, which has already proven itself abroad through the success of the Scandi noir genre, means it is well positioned to corner its specific niche overseas as well as at home.

Viaplay’s launch in the UK will mean the service is available in 12 markets, and NENT expects Viaplay to add at least four more by the end of 2023.

While the US-based subscription streaming services have all been quick to expand internationally, the closest parallel to Viaplay in Europe is BritBox, a collaboration between ITV and the BBC. BritBox, like Viaplay, sells itself on the international appeal of its locally produced content, having started out in America before launching at home. But BritBox has been much slower to explore new markets – so far it’s only available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and South Africa.

And while Viaplay is using its specialism in Nordic content to establish itself in new countries, the service has shown interest in producing content tailored to its international markets too. In the Netherlands for example, Viaplay has commissioned original Dutch content including two scripted dramas, with plans for more investment in local productions further down the line.

Follow VideoWeek on Twitter and LinkedIn.


About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
Go to Top