Upstaging television, other popular video content channels: this is the ambition the film, series and sports broadcaster Viaplay, which is owned by the Swedish company Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT), currently has for the Baltic States.
The Scandinavian broadcaster is prepared to broadcast planned content and create new content in close cooperation with Lithuanian producers and creators. In an exclusive interview, the group’s head Anders Jansen does not hide he has big ambitions for the Baltic region.
Not the first time in Lithuania
The Viaplay brand is already well known in Lithuania – previously, this channel functioned as part of the Modern Times Group (MTG). However, when the business split apart in 2018, Viaplay remained a part of the NENT group and the brand left the Baltic States.
“We always knew that we would want to return to the Baltic States, not as a traditional television broadcaster but as a streaming channel, and our return demanded a vast amount of time and effort. Our previous experience was wholly different because we were tied to television channels. When returning to Lithuania, we did not look back because we are starting everything from scratch and creating something that is new, innovative and modern,” says the head of the NENT group.
Previously associated with the Go3 group, Viaplay will now become one of their rivals. However, A. Jansen is unwilling to name a specific main competitor in Lithuania. “It is a combination of local and global competitors. We are not entering to change something in Lithuania – we are coming to create and offer something new, and it will be the consumers who will be the winners because they will have a vast selection of options at an affordable price. We are also oriented towards partnerships and so we will work closely with local media companies. We do so in the Northern countries, and we will do the same in Lithuania.”
Despite its changed operational model, the head of Viaplay says that its previous experience allows it better to understand the advantages of the Baltic States market. “We find it very appealing that the Baltic States citizens feel a strong desire to get to know new digital services. Also, there is excellent broadband and mobile infrastructure here. This is a showcase of the market’s vast potential, and we hope to operate here and help realise this potential successfully,” A. Jansen notes.
Significant attention on sports
Viaplay will offer viewers in the Baltic States thousands of hours of content, and there will be more attention dedicated to world-level sports broadcasts. “Sports comprise a large portion of our activities. We will also have sports categories tailored to the local market and those with popularity across the Baltic States, such as Formula 1, NHL games and the Champions League. This is our initial plan, but we will constantly increase our offerings. We will have news already in the coming months. We are aware of how important basketball is in Lithuania and so, of course, we will have basketball broadcasts,” explains the head of Viaplay A. Jansen.
The platform will broadcast a significant amount of productions from Hollywood, as well as children’s content. The Swedish company promises to attract viewers with more than 100 original films and series, particularly the criminal drama genre, which is massively popular in Scandinavian countries.
“I am convinced that you must see the Northern countries’ criminal series; I know that content of this topic is fairly popular in Lithuania and the other Baltic States. We have an excellent selection of never-before-seen content, which I highly recommend and know that you will be pleasantly surprised by,” A. Jansen says.
Seeking stories in Lithuania to bring to the screen
While Viaplay is not planning on creating a branch in Lithuania, the company looks to closely cooperate with professional local producers, content creators and sports broadcasters.
“We are seeking the most interesting stories and storytellers wherever they might be. Upon finding them in Lithuania, we would create the highest quality content, which we could also broadcast in the Northern countries and around the world. Of course, this content should be appealing to the international audience to broadcast in Sweden, the USA, Poland, and other countries we operate in. I believe that this is a great opportunity for Lithuanian creators because we can be a partner who is willing to hear you out and see what you have, perhaps creating something magical together,” the broadcasting group’s CEO says.
He also emphasises that Viaplay looks to draw closer to the local audience by translating most of the content into Lithuanian: “This separates us from other international companies of this type. We wish to be as close and within reach of the local market, so most of our content will be subtitled in the local language, and we will also adapt content for children. We will aim to become a part of the local community because the Baltic States are indeed very close to us.”
Expect a broadcasting service boom in the near future
Last year during quarantine, the popularity of the Netflix cinema and series content platform rose significantly in Lithuania, and this foreign language content platform became a serious rival to traditional television channels. Nevertheless, with the launch of its operations across all Baltic States on March 9, Viaplay perceives untapped potential here.
“This market is truly very uncompetitive, and I believe that in the future, there will only be more such services. Compared to other broadcasters, we bring different content. In the Northern countries, we hold a higher market share than Netflix and a vastly higher share than HBO and Amazon, so we were convinced that we are able to compete with global market players,” A. Jansen says.
The head of Viaplay notes that only around 20 per cent of households in the Baltic States make use of on-demand audio-visual platforms because such services are vastly more popular in the Scandinavian region, and so A. Jansen is confident that there is still room for new broadcasters in the Baltic region. The broadcaster experienced a similar occurrence last year when it started operations in Iceland in the midst of the pandemic, and this step proved especially justified.
“We take expansion very seriously and intend to invest significantly into new markets over the coming years. When we enter new markets such as the Baltic States, we definitely seek the best position on the market. The Baltic States are a growing market, which we expect to experience major growth over the coming three to five years. In the broadcasting service sector, we wish to be the first in Lithuania and the other Baltic States. Our ambition is to create a service, which will become the most desired among most households,” A. Jansen reveals.