A Swedish TV streaming company is positioning itself as a European challenger to Netflix as it pushes out from its Scandinavian stronghold further into the continent and the US by offering a mix of Nordic drama and sport.
Nordic Entertainment Group (Nent) said on Tuesday it would enter Poland and the US next year, as well as the three Baltic states and five other unnamed European countries by 2023, as it seeks to compete in a global streaming market dominated by US players such as Netflix, Disney, HBO and Amazon.
Nent is also considering a secondary listing in the US to boost its visibility and allow better comparisons to other streaming companies, according to chief executive Anders Jensen.
“This is, in my view, the biggest venture into streaming in Europe ever. We are defining ourselves as a growth company out of a Nordic success story,” Mr Jensen told the Financial Times.
Nent is a fraction of the size of the US streaming giants with its Viaplay service having 2.8m subscribers at the end of September. It plans to double its Nordic subscribers to 6m by 2025 and add about 4.5m paying customers internationally in the next five years.
Analysts at Citigroup called the growth plans “strikingly ambitious” but warned that they had to be balanced with “relatively high execution risk” and the need to raise capital.
Shares in Nent, which have risen more than two-thirds since it was spun out of Swedish media company Modern Times Group last year, rose 7 per cent to a record high of SKr394.2.
There are almost no pure-play European streaming companies, with most services on the continent provided by national legacy TV groups. “We are the only real contender right now,” Mr Jensen said. “We have carved out a leadership position. We think there’s a role for Nordic and European content on a global scale.”
Nent markets itself as broader than Netflix, offering not just entertainment — much of which it produces itself — but also sports. Its main selling point for entering Poland is a four-year exclusive contract to broadcast German Bundesliga football with interest in the country high due to Polish star Robert Lewandowski playing for Bayern Munich.
The business model for streaming sports remains unproven. Netflix has to date steered clear of buying live sports rights because of expensive costs, with Reed Hastings, the Netflix founder, saying it offers “no long term profitability, nothing defensible”.
In the US, Viaplay will be promoted on the strength of its Nordic dramas, as Mr Jensen said there were growing signs that American consumers were opening up for non-English language content.
Nent’s US venture has some similarities with BritBox US, a BBC Studios and ITV joint venture that has attracted about 1.5m subscribers since it launched in America three years ago.
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