In a surprising turn of events, Viaplay, the streaming service that offers a combination of live sports from the former Premier Sports, along with original Nordic films and TV shows, has announced plans to exit the UK market.
This decision was revealed in the company’s earnings report, published today, which outlined a strategic shift to refocus its footprint on the Nordics and the Netherlands, specifically for sports content.
This sudden pivot has shocked both industry experts and subscribers, who are now trying to understand what this means for them.
Viaplay launched in the UK on November 1, 2022, offering two packages:
The Films & Series package (£3.99/month), focuses on Viaplay Originals from the Nordics and curated third-party content.
The Viaplay Total package (£14.99/month), which added the combined UK sports line-up of Viaplay and former UK sports streamer and TV channel operator Premier Sports.
Premier Sports, which was acquired by Viaplay earlier that year, held the rights to some of the major sporting events in the world, such as all European Qualifiers for the UEFA EURO, LaLiga, FIFA World Cup matches, and over 1,000 UEFA international matches.
Viaplay also has a deal to broadcast the Scottish Cup alongside BBC Scotland until next year, while holding the rights to show the League Cup until 2027.
Viaplay’s Financial Challenges
Viaplay’s decision to exit the UK and other markets can be attributed to its recent financial difficulties.
The company’s earnings report reveals a significant drop in net income for the first half of 2023, a stark contrast to the positive income reported for the same period in 2022.
These financial challenges, coupled with risks related to recent expansions, political and legislative uncertainties, and increased competition, have led to the company’s decision to refocus on its core markets.
In response to these challenges, Viaplay has announced a new strategy and plan, which includes:
- Focusing on its core Nordic, Netherlands and Viaplay Select operations
- Implementing a new operational model
- Downsizing, partnering or exiting its other international markets
- Rightsizing and pricing its product offering in the Nordics
- Undertaking a major cost reduction programme
- Conducting an immediate strategic review to consider all options available.
However, there is always a risk that the plan does not materialise as intended, which could impact the Group’s financial position, access to capital, and ability to meet its obligations.
Viaplay Leaving The UK
Today, Viaplay announced two measures relevant to the UK: First, a decision to discontinue the Viaplay Film & Series package.
Plus, a decision to exit the UK, Poland, Baltics, US and Canada in order to “re-focus the footprint on the Nordics (multiple tiers) and Netherlands (sports only)”.
The exit will come in “the form of disposal, partnering or winding down the businesses” – which means Viaplay may end up selling parts of the services – or its streaming rights – to other companies, or shut it down completely.
The announcement marks a significant shift for Viaplay, which had made substantial inroads into the UK market.
Following the launch of Viaplay last year, Premier Sports 1 and Premier Sports 2 were rebranded as Viaplay Sports 1 and Viaplay Sports 2, with the free-to-air TV channel FreeSports becoming Viaplay Xtra.
All channels remained available through the existing distribution partners and continued to broadcast live sports to pubs, clubs, and other commercial premises throughout the UK.
Viaplay’s exit from the UK market will undoubtedly have implications for its subscribers at some point, particularly those who signed up for the Viaplay Total package to access its extensive sports content.
At this point in time, however, the company has yet to provide details on how it plans to manage the transition, and when these changes are set to take place.
A Viaplay spokesperson told Cord Busters that the company has indeed initiated a strategic review for its International markets, including the UK – but it is too premature to give any indication of how or when things will change for customers.
For the time being, Viaplay continues to function as before in the UK.
This news comes amidst a year of significant shakeups in the TV sports landscape, including the merger of BT Sport and Eurosport/Discovery, which culminated in the launch of TNT Sports this week.
It remains to be seen how Viaplay’s exit will further impact the UK’s streaming landscape and where its current subscribers will turn for their sports and drama content.
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