Viaplay Content Distribution Boss Talks Strategy, Fresh Sale of ‘End of Summer’ to Canal+’s Polar+ Ahead of MipTV (EXCLUSIVE)

On the eve of the global content market MipTV in Cannes, Viaplay Group’s Vanda Rapti, EVP Viaplay Select and Content Distribution, has offered a confident outlook on the Scandi streamer’s international activities and content sales.

The sales executive, who joined the group in 2003, was able to announce exclusively to Variety a string of new deals on Viaplay’s premium Nordic scripted content.

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Swedish psycho thriller “End of Summer,” based on the eponymous best-selling crime novel by former police officer Anders de la Motte, has been snapped up by Canal+ Group’s channel Polar + for France and all its territories.

The six-part series toplining Julia Ragnarsson (“Midsommar,” “Blinded”) and Erik Enge (“Tiger”), follows a sister’s search for the truth behind her young brother’s disappearance and his potential return decades later. The show was produced by Viaplay and Harmonica Films, in co-production with SF Studios, Film i Skåne, and Paprika Studios.

The package sale to Polar+ also included rights to the Norwegian crime drama “Fenris” starring Ida Elise Broch (“Home for Christmas”).

“End of Summer” has proved a hot title for the sales arm of the Nordic streaming group, as 40 markets will now showcase it as part of curated slates available globally through Viaplay Select and traditional licencing.

Elsewhere, the Danish drama and 2022 Canneseries contender “The Dreamer-Becoming Karen Blixen,” starring Connie Nielsen, was sold to Orange for France, the Norwegian crime hit “Wisting season 5” to pubcaster NPO in the Netherlands, while RTS in Switzerland nabbed the Norwegian shows “Furia” Season 2” and “Fenris” and “Below.”

Viaplay’s MipTV Slate

Other MipTV offers include the recent Series Mania Swedish competitor “All and Eva” starring Tuva Novotny, the suspense crime series “Jana-Marked for Life” starring Madeleine Martin, Pernilla August, August Wittgenstein, and non-scripted true crime series “Under the Radar-Secrets of a Swedish Serial Killer”.

“At MipTV, we push certain shows for marketing reasons, but of course, we have a large slate of other titles that are on the forefront of my mind when I talk to buyers,’ said Rapti, who also mentions upcoming Swedish crime series “Mafia”.

Inspired by real events, the six-part series chronicles the journey of a notorious Swedish mobster, with a backdrop of the Yugoslavia war in the 90s. Toplining the show are Axel Stjärne (“Top Dog”), Tomas Jonsgården (“Game of Thrones: Aftermath”), Katia Winter (“Sleepy Hollow”) and Peshang Rad (“Before We Die”).

“With non-English language content, true stories – in the scripted or non-scripted space –  work really well internationally,” Rapti underscored.

As always, Viaplay Content Distribution reps one of the largest catalogues on the market of top-end Nordic content across different formats and genres, but also some non-Nordic Viaplay Originals such as the English -language UK crime show “Rebus,” based on Scottish author Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus novels.

The series, which was originally due to launch via Viaplay’s own U.K.-based service, was recently sold to the BBC, following the Scandi streamer’s decision last year to exit from the U.K. – alongside the U.S. and the Baltics – in a major cost-cutting effort.

Viaplay 2.0

After the tumultuous 2023 which saw Viaplay slash its workforce by 25% sell off assets, fully revamp its operating model and management team under new CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, Viaplay Group is on a mending path.

The group has successfully completed its recapitalization worth SEK 4 billion ($381.7 million), with new shareholders Canal+ and Czech group PPF on board, and is now fully focused on its core direct-to-consumer markets – the Nordics and the Netherlands, with an exit from Poland is slated for mid-2025 – and on its Viaplay Select brand.

Viaplay Select, which provides partner platforms with a curated slate of top Nordic and European series, is available in more than 20 countries via 13 partner platforms, Rapti explains. Those include Bell Media’s Crave streamer in Canada, Canal+ in Austria, Deutsche Telekom’s Magenta TV service in Germany, CH Media’s Oneplus in Switzerland and Vodafone Greece.

Rapti sees Viaplay Select as a perfect business model to optimise rights exploitation internationally, with minimum risk. “When we enter a market through Viaplay Select with partners, we don’t take financial risks,. On the contrary, these are partnerships where upfront, we’re certain of the terms of investment for at least a minimum significant upside,” she noted.

Next to Viaplay Select and traditional multi-territory sales, Viaplay Content Distribution’s third focus is Viaplay’s SVOD Channel. Currently available in North America through partner platforms including Comcast Xfinity, Roku and Xumo, the service offers 2,000+ hours of top-tier Nordic and European storytelling.

“Our aim is to grow our SVOD channel with new partnerships to be announced shortly in additional markets,” said Rapti.

All in all, the senior sales executive feels her group offers “a solid distribution home for Nordic and European storytellers and rights holders, perhaps more appealing than traditional distribution outlets” due to its unique three-way global licensing models.

Going forward, she said that Viaplay remains “a good place and a good partner to producers.”

“Rights holders, especially in the Nordics, might have been anxious during Viaplay’s recapitalisation process, but it is clear now that the group will survive. Our recapitalisation has been successful, and will help us address our immediate challenges, therefore producers don’t need to be worried,” she insisted.

Regarding possible new third-party pickups, Rapti says this is unlikely to happen in the near future, considering the backlog of Viaplay titles still waiting for release.

“Let’s put things in perspective. In recent years, we’ve had a massive content creation spree at Viaplay, which led us to have a large volume of first run titles available as a distributor, higher than most other streaming platforms,” she said. “In 2023, we launched over 70 Viaplay Originals and we’ve entered 2024 with over 55 upcoming scripted shows, that have been produced, are being financed or are ready to screen. Even for 2025, we do have a lot of new titles, completely fresh, to be released that year. Therefore, we won’t be running out of content for a while,” Rapti noted.

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