Niet Meer for ‘Nordic Noir?’ Scandinavian Media Conglomerate Viaplay Retreats From Int’l Markets, Abandons Ambitious Netflix Competition Plans in the U.S.

Viaplay Webpage
(Image credit: Viaplay)

Viaplay, best known in the streaming age for leading the “Nordic Noir” boom, is very suddenly in full retreat. 

On Thursday, the Scandinavian media conglomerate, biting hard after experiencing a huge $575 million second-quarter loss, revealed austere new plans to focus on core markets in the Nordics and Netherlands, exit international regions, including the U.S., and lay off a quarter of its staff.

The company also put itself up for sale. 

French television giant Canal Plus reported that it had already acquired a 12% stake in Viaplay just hours after the Q2 announcement. No financial details about the translation were provided.

Viacom’s retreat marks an extraordinary shift in momentum and subsequent global retreat. 

On an unseasonably cool Friday morning in late May, Next TV met in Hollywood with Viaplay's London-based executive VP and chief commercial officer, Vanda Rapti, who was at the time overseeing an ambitious plan to launch a $5.99-a-month niche subscription streaming service in the U.S. 

All systems were said to be go on that day. 

Just 10 days later, Viaplay revealed that its economic fate had changed dramatically. With second-quarter revenue trending down 12%-16%, Anders Jensen immediately stepped down as CEO. 

Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, formerly a top exec for Viaplay's former corporate parent, MTG, stepped in as Jensen's replacement.

On Thursday, during Viaplay's Q2 earnings report, the media company announced its subsequent austerity plan. 

For starters: Viaplay will undertake a major cost reduction program, including the elimination of more than 450 jobs.

Among the staffers lost will be chief commercial officer Filippa Wallestam, who led the conglomerate’s push into scripted originals and move into English-speaking markets.

With Wallestam's departure, Viaplay will stop distributing 'low-tier," non-sports programming in international markets -- a move that would seemingly include the "Nordic Noir" scripted originals many of us in the U.S. have come to enjoy. 

Actually, the U.S. SVOD's fate remains a little unclear as of Friday evening -- we were still able to sign up for Viaplay's U.S. subscription streaming service. But the feeling Stateside is understandably ... noir-ish. 

Next TV reached out to Viaplay for comment on the future of U.S. SVOD operations. No comment, background or otherwise, was offered. 

With labor unrest grinding Hollywood's production engine to a halt, the timing seemingly couldn't have come worse. 

“The content investments made are not all paying off,” said Lindemann in Viaplay's Q2 release, discussing attempts to expand scripted content internationally. 

Viaplay's U.S. streamer launched just this past February with more than 1,500 titles.

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Jack Reid is a USC Annenberg Journalism major with experience reporting, producing and writing for Annenberg Media. He has also served as a video editor, showrunner and live-anchor during his time in the field.