Viasat Sweden

Viaplay was launched really early, one of the earliest OTT services in Europe, in the middle of 2012. It came out of traditional online VoD service Viasat called on demand and today has 40 live channels, almost as many as its broadcast option. Viafree was added a year ago.

Operations and figures:

Viasat owner MTG had Q1 2017 of  $487m (up 10.5%). Full year 2016 was $1,99 billion (up 6.7%). For the quarter sales were up 8% organically, 11% in the Nordics. Both OTT services, Viaplay and Viafree have experienced strong growth says the company. It has announced the sale of its Czech (FTV Prima) and Baltic operations. In April MTG said that its original production Swedish Dicks, gained US distribution.

Video customers numbered 981,000 of which 442,000 are direct by satellite, with the rest through 3rd parties. This fell 20,000 in Q1. Viasat has no fixed broadband lines.

MTG Viasat offers hybrid broadcast channels with its OTT Viaplay across Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, which offers 40 live channels, delivering to portable devices and set tops. Viafree was launched in May 2016 and takes free content to the same countries.

Viasat also owns TV channels, including Sweden’s commercial TV3, TV3+, Viasat Sport and TV1000 channels.  In  2014 it launched Viagame which became eSportsTV, and in May 2016 bought 22% of Engage Sports Media, and a UK esports agency Kuoda. It also offers YouTube MCNs Splay and Zooming and sports festival network Dreamhack.

Technology Suppliers:

OTT Encoding: Elemental supplies OTT encoding, replacing Envivio.

The Packager is built into Elemental Live and it also uses Elemental Server which includes packaging taking files and streams directly  from thePlatform’s mpx video management system. Delivery was originally  in Microsoft Smooth Streaming but has since moved to MPEG-Dash.

Middleware: Netgem provides set top Middleware to OTT hybdrid set tops.

Security: Microsoft PlayReady is underpinned by Irdeto Active Cloak for Media a way of hiding keys from the device OS.

Netgem has provided the set top for both broadcast and OTT channels since 2012. It is available on Xbox and Sony PS3/4 through an Accedo App.

OTT Video Offering:

Viaplay was launched really early, one of the earliest OTT services in Europe, in the middle of 2012. It came out of  traditional online VoD service Viasat called on demand and today has 40 live channels, almost as many as its broadcast option. Viafree was added a year ago.

Initially Viaplay was available across Scandinavia—Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark and began distributing in the Baltics—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, last July, via cellular operator Tele2, although this has now been sold in March 2017, including its streaming services. Viaplay initially tried to go up against Netflix and HBO Go, charging the equivalent of  €7 ($8) for the basic package, €10 ($11) with some sport but with additional premiums for each sport up to as much as $52 (€46) a month.

MTG is still recovering from losing operations in Russia over legal changes there, which meant it had to cut jobs in its native Sweden as well as Norway and Denmark, while recasting itself as a modern digital streaming service.

Rethink estimates that Viaplay had some 248,000 paying streaming customers at end of 2016 across the three territories, rising at a rate of about 100,000 a year now and will reach 513,000 paid streaming Viaplay customers by 2021. This will now slowing since they sold the Baltics operation.

MTG has its own digital accelerator called MTGx focused on funding digital entertainment. It works closely with startup communities and is built on three pillars – Viaplay, Play and Ventures. The  Play channels provides

Splay, the leading Swedish Youtube channel, and launched Viagame – a global eSports channel. MTG has acquired Champions League soccer coverage in Scandinavia until 2021.

Technology Detail:

OTT Encoding: There was a major re-write in 2014 to bring content to smaller devices and this is when Elemental ousted Envivio. The company has been a long term user of thePlatform’s mpx video management system which provides workflow for  video ingest; metadata management; subscriber management, subscriber rights enforcement

One of the key innovations was the use of ThinkAnalytics as a recommendation engine, introduced in that same 2014 upgrade, which already had an mpx integration.

CDN: Viaplay uses multiple CDNs with a Cedexis front end which switches in real time between them. Cedexis is a US firm formed by departing Akamai executives.  Viaplay uses Oracle Financials for its billing service.

Deals tracked:

  • 10/15 – MTG has sold its Russian pay TV businesses to comply with a law restricting ownership of Russian media by foreigners
  • 12/15 – Viasat has a new deal with satellite operator SES for DTH.
  • 03/16 – MTG unveiled a new financial structure, with 4 segments: Nordic Entertainment; International Entertainment; Studios; MTGx Ventures.
  • 03/16 – MTG has sold its Ukrainian pay TV business Viasat Ukraine to Ukraine’s 1+1 Media Group.
  • 06/16 – MTG and Telenor have signed a new multi-year deal for distribution of MTG channels on Telenor networks across the Nordic region. MTG will add more premium sports channels to Telenor’s subscribers.
  • 07/16 – MTG to cover Olympics in virtual reality and UHD and will launched a new UHD channel and partner with Samsung for VR headsets.
  • 10/16 – MTG bought 35% of German games developer InnoGames for $100 million with an option to increase the stake to 51%.
  • 01/17 – MTG sold 40% stake in Czech FTA broadcaster Prima to Denemo Media for €237.4 million.
  • 02/17 – MTG partners with Fox to launch Nordic streaming service Fox+.
  • 05/17—European OTT streaming site and B2B platform provider Magine TV closed its operation down in Sweden, after break-down in negotiations with broadcasters TV4 and MTG.

Trends and analysis:

The Nordic region has top quality broadband and a sophisticated and competitive environment for both broadcast TV and OTT video.  This means that Viasat must lead on content quality so it can remain in partnership with its rival pay TV groups. It launched into AVOD with Viafree because it was lagging behind Netflix with SVoD.

Telenor remains the strongest force in Pay TV in MTG’s native Sweden, with a combination of satellite and cable operations, but the market leader there is about to change as Com Hem, a cable operators focussed on bringing cable to MDUs, has acquired paid digital terrestrial service Boxer. This will see it emerge as a full service telecoms operator across Sweden, able to trade blows with Telenor, Telia and MTG’s Viasat.

Telenor also has operations in Norway which brings up its TV customers to 1 million in IPTV, and almost another million in DTH broadcast across the region. It already offers Canal Digital Go, a TV Anywhere services and for a while ran Com Oyo a paid rival to Netflix, but axed this in 2013.

TeliaSonera is also aggressive in the region with 1.5 million pay TV subscribers across half a dozen countries, and its own OTT service TeliaSonera Play.

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