Viaplay to exit UK, US; axing 25% of staff
July 20, 2023
Nordic broadcasting group Viaplay, in announcing its Q2 results, revealed that it is cutting more than 25 per cent of its staff (around 450 people) and pulling its services out of the US and UK as it mulls a sale.
Viaplay reported Q2 net sales of SEK4,591 million (€399m) in Q2, up from SEK3,725 million year on year. The group saw a net loss of SEK5,886 million, compared to a profit of SEK175 million.
Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, Viaplay President & CEO, said in a press statement: “We are today announcing a new strategy and plan, which includes, but is not limited to, focusing on our core Nordic, Netherlands and Viaplay Select operations; implementing a new operational model; downsizing, partnering or exiting our other international markets; rightsizing and pricing our product offering in the Nordics; undertaking a major cost reduction programme; and conducting an immediate strategic review of the entire business to consider all options including content sublicensing, asset disposals, equity injections or the sale of the whole Group. The content investments that have been made are not all paying off, and are committed in the short and medium term. Furthermore, the pursuit of subscriber volume growth has been at the cost of value, especially when it comes to our partner agreements.
The weakness in the advertising markets and currency exchange rates are additional factors that we must live with. The international expansion assumptions, including the timelines to profitability, have also been pushed materially into the future since the expansion started. We are moving quickly to address all of these challenges.
Going forward, our focus will be on the Nordic markets with the new operating model in place, on the right content mix, on the development of our soon to be profitable Dutch operations, and on the sale of our content internationally through Viaplay Select. We are focusing our attention and resources on those markets where we can compete for the long term, and ensuring that our products are relevant, popular and generate healthy returns.
We have had to take a number of immediate decisions for the sake of the future of our business. This regrettably means letting go of more than 25 per cent of our people. Due to the material change in the international business plans, and the fact that not all of the content investments that we have made are paying off, we have SEK 6.3 billion of items affecting comparability included in this report, which include a minor part of the redundancy programme costs, as well as writing down the value of content where we are not seeing sufficient return on investment, and exiting the Baltic markets. We are also discontinuing our low tier non-sports offering in each of our international markets, in order to focus on our sports offering and the sale of non-sports content through our profitable Viaplay Select business.
The future payment commitments for our content, when combined with the revenue trajectory that we see, means that we will need to reach agreement with our lenders on how best to navigate the period ahead. We are addressing covenant and funding challenges through discussions with lenders while exploring capital raising alternatives.
The Q2 results were in line with guidance on revenues and EBIT. We delivered 16 per cent organic revenue growth and Viaplay was the primary driver with 42 per cent revenue growth. Viaplay subscriber volumes were substantially lower than at the end of Q1, and than previously guided for, as we decided not to prolong or launch additional B2B partner campaigns that would not drive revenue and profitability. We now expect the Viaplay subscriber base to grow to 7 to 7.2 million by the end of the year, with ARPU rising given the price adjustments that we have introduced.
Our Nordic revenues grew by 8 per cent on an organic basis, with Viaplay representing 43 per cent of Nordic sales and delivering 26 per cent growth. Our Nordic Viaplay subscriber base was up slightly YoY but down QoQ due to the phasing out of ARPU dilutive partner campaigns, as well as seasonally higher churn in the sports packages. Prices have been raised YoY in each market. Our linear channel and other subscription revenues were up 9%, with sublicensing being the main driver. The advertising markets have further deteriorated and our combined TV, radio and AVoD sales were down 16 per cent. The advertising outlook remains weak for the rest of the year. Sales for our international operations were up 115 per cent on an organic basis as the Viaplay subscriber base grew by 69 per cent, and prices have been raised in each market. The growth also reflected the Select deals that we have done. The subscriber base was down QoQ as we phased out ARPU dilutive partner campaigns, with the Polish base growing and Dutch base declining.
Group operating profits before ACI and IAC were in line with the guidance, with a 5.4 per cent Nordic operating margin and higher QoQ losses for the international operations due to the content investments that we have made, the consolidation of the UK operation, and the launches in North America.
Looking forward into the second half of the year, we will continue to feel the pressure of the macro environment and rising content costs, due to higher original content costs, built-in sports rights inflation, and adverse currency effects. We now expect full year Group operating losses before ACI and IAC to be approximately SEK 850-1,050 million for 2023, which include approximately SEK 600 million of lower cost of sales following the provisions and write-downs that we have made. Our 2024 guidance is based on our continuing business being the Nordics, Netherlands and Viaplay Select, which will mean that SG&A costs will be borne by a smaller organisation. We expect to deliver between a loss of SEK 150 million and a profit of SEK 150 million in 2024, which includes approximately SEK 700 million of lower cost of sales. Margins are then expected to gradually rise in the following years towards the long-term objective of double digit EBIT margins. It is clear that we have much to do and much to gain, which is exactly what we are focused on.”