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Vanda Rapti: Viaplay Select will add new territories in 2023
 12 Jan 2023
Viaplay Select is set to launch in the US and Canada this year and is set to expand to new territories during 2023, as Vanda Rapti, EVP & Chief Commercial Officer for North America and Viaplay Select, Viaplay Group, shares in this exclusive interview for CEETV. The service is already enjoying excellent results in CEE and is looking for more potential partners in the region.

Vanda, you are responsible for the Viaplay streaming service launch in the US and Canada, for the Viaplay Select branded content and you also lead Viaplay‘s global content distribution team. What have been the biggest challenges for you at Viaplay in 2022?

One of my biggest personal challenges is that I don’t have 72 hours in a day! As always at Viaplay, we move very quickly, and we’ve achieved a lot together in 2022 – from a corporate rebrand to launches in the Netherlands and the UK, our first Viaplay Select deals and much more. Of course, there are broader macro-economic challenges of which we need to take careful account, just like all companies, and we’re working hard to manage their impact on our business.

Tell us a little bit more about the Viaplay Select branded concept. What are the elements that set Viaplay apart from other similar services?

In my view, there are no similar services. Most of our competitors today are focused on their own direct-to-consumer offerings. Earlier concepts like ABCTV On Demand, Fox+ and Warner TV perhaps resembled Viaplay Select in some ways, but they didn’t have the premium first-run pipeline element, or the possibility of exclusivity or premieres for local partners. Viaplay Select, on the other hand, offers our partners a curated pipeline of premium European content, including first-run premieres, which can help them stand out in a very competitive streaming market. We’re talking unique storytelling – from Viaplay and others – combined with the flexibility to match their local priorities.

What are your plans for expansion? How many countries have Viaplay Select currently and what territories will be added in 2023?

We announced our first Viaplay Select deal in April and just eight months later, we’re live in 18 markets. Our current partners are in Latin America, Europe, Australia and Japan, and we’ve signed additional deals while discussing even more – so watch this space. When it comes to our ‘regular’ Viaplay streaming service, which offers subscribers our own content combined with Hollywood productions and live sports, we’re present in 11 European countries. We’ll launch in the US and Canada early next year with a strong films and movies offering, predominantly comprising Viaplay’s own content mixed with further premium Nordic and European productions.

Recently, you announced a deal with Pickbox NOW. What are Viaplay Select’s results and plans for CEE?

We’ve just launched on Pickbox NOW, and the marketing prominence the client is giving to both individual shows and Viaplay’s brand is a clear indication of their belief in the value they’re getting. The viewing figures are also excellent. We’re now in discussions with further potential partners in other CEE markets about Viaplay Select as well as linear TV deals for our content. There’s a lot of interest in our current slate, especially the biopic The Dreamer – Becoming Karen Blixen starring Connie Nielsen, our hit crime shows such as Cell 8 and Fenris, and the upcoming biopic of NHL ice hockey legend Börje Salming. We’re also getting a lot of attention around Ronja, our ambitious family fantasy live action series based on Astrid Lindgren’s classic story, which sits somewhere between the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings universes, with a Nordic touch.

What kind of content do viewers/users enjoy in our region?

Audiences in most regions are diverse and enjoy many different types of content, and CEE is no different. It’s well-known that the appetite for Nordic Noir crime shows has been established for some years now, and we’re also pleased to see growing interest in our dramedies such as Norway’s Below. Some viewers, on the other hand, prefer reality and documentaries. As content producers, our priority is to have a compelling offering in multiple genres that can be attractive across markets.

Viaplay plans to create four different commercial units covering the markets it is present in. Can you tell us more about this strategy?

Starting December, we have introduced four Viaplay regions: Nordics, Continental Europe & Baltics, the UK, and North America and Viaplay Select. The latter also covers global content distribution, i.e. content sales not linked to subscriptions or our own services and channels.

It’s a natural step, given our rapid expansion over the past few years, which will help us focus on growth, execute on our development plans in each market and get even closer to our customers.

Viaplay is the Nordic region’s leading producer of original content. What have been your most-popular titles in 2022 and what will be your new projects for next year?

This year, we will have premiered more than 70 original series, films and documentaries. That takes us to over 220 premieres since we launched our first original show in 2016, which reflects how fast we have established ourselves in this area. Along with the titles I mentioned earlier, some of our biggest hits this year include Lasse Hallström’s English-language film Hilma, about the pioneering Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, and the Danish young adult series Where Were You? Our slate for 2023 looks really exciting, with highlights such as Ronja, the biopic Munch, the unconventional coming-of-age drama Bullshit, set against the backdrop of a notorious Copenhagen biker gang war in the ‘80s, and the Nordic noir thriller End of Summer.

Everybody has been talking about how “content is king” for many years now but monetization of content seems to be a more pressing issue now. What is your strategy in terms of monetizing content? Are you looking into new ways to do this, hybrid models for example?

We’ve developed our strategy to the extent that we now have multiple approaches to monetizing our content. We have both Viaplay Select and more traditional content sales routes, and that’s before all the partnership opportunities for the Viaplay streaming service itself. The latter are something we’re looking at closely in the US and Canada – how can we offer the highest content value to our partners and align with their priorities? When we get that right, it means increased revenue and growth for everyone – and a great experience for viewers.

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