October 4, 2018 / 1:55 PM / in 14 days

NENT takes on Netflix in battle for Nordic streaming market as it readies for listing

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) hopes to lure investors with robust growth in streaming when it is spun off from Sweden’s MTG next year, betting that its Scandi dramas will help it narrow the gap with market leader Netflix.

FILE PHOTO: Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) sign is seen at their headquarters in Stockholm, Sweden October 1, 2018. REUTERS/Olof Swahnberg/File Photo

Media Group MTG decided earlier this year to split in two and list the Nordic TV business, NENT, on the stock exchange, after Danish telecoms company TDC dropped a planned $2.5 billion takeover of the business.

Nordic streaming services benefit from Europe’s highest penetration rates, supported by some of the best broadband in the world, and strong English-language skills that saw Netflix make it one of its first markets outside the Americas in 2012.

Stockholm-based NENT offers free and pay TV, radio, advertising-based streaming service Viafree and a subscriber-based streaming service, Viaplay, whose hit shows include Swedish political thriller “Conspiracy of Silence” and Swedish and Danish crime drama “The Lawyer”. It operates in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Viaplay accounts for around 15 percent of NENT’s sales and is its biggest growth-driver, financial analysts have said.

“When we go to the market.. our message will focus on streaming, growth in video on demand,” said Chief Executive Anders Jensen. “In streaming we aim to gain market share,” he told Reuters.

Netflix had 40 percent of the Nordic market in the first quarter based on number of subscribers, down from 50 percent a year earlier, according to media consultancy firm Mediavision.

Around 45 percent of 11 million Nordic households paid for at least one streaming service in the first quarter, up from nearly 40 percent the previous year, according to Mediavision.

Viaplay does not disclose subscriber or financial numbers. Overall, NENT Group expects to grow by less than 10 percent annually due to slowly declining linear TV viewing. Jensen declined to be more specific as the company plans to release long-term financial targets ahead of its listing in March.

Jensen said: “I think [streaming] penetration will continue to increase to closer to 100 percent in the coming years. We want to take a good deal of that growth.”

Viaplay competes with Bonnier Broadcasting’s C More, Discovery’s Dplay and Eurosport Player. All four are growing faster than Netflix, according to Mediavision.

NENT, which increased its sales last year by 7 percent organically to 13.7 billion Swedish crowns ($1.52 billion), sees the Nordic streaming market growing by around 17 percent annually in the period 2017 through 2021.

Last year was the second straight year with organic growth above 5 percent as the streaming market expands.

Jensen said he expected a total of over 50 original productions, including 14 already released, within the next few years. NENT also holds Nordic rights for several major sports, including the Champions League, the Premier League and the NHL.

Growth could also come from its discussions with mobile telecom operators to combine mobile connectivity with its content and sharing content with rivals as it has with Telia on ice hockey for Finnish clients, Jensen said.

Reporting by Olof Swahnberg; editing by Georgina Prodhan and Alexandra Hudson

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