Viaplay to cut quarter of staff and eyes sale, commercial chief Wallestam to exit

ViaplayViaplay Group in the Nordics is to cut more than 25% of its staff, with recently promoted CCO Filippa Wallestam among those exiting the business, as it pulls out of the US and UK and considers a potential sale.

President and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann unveiled the new strategy and plan today, seeking drastic measures to right the ship just a month after he was appointed to the role.

Lindemann revealed that the company will be pulling out of the Baltics, UK, US, Canada and Poland to “re-focus on the Nordics and Netherlands” and said that the staff cuts were regrettable, but were “for the sake of the future of our business”.

A spokesperson for Viaplay Group confirmed to DTVE sister title TBI that Wallestam, the former chief content officer, who was promoted to chief commerical officer for the Nordics in May, is departing the group, which is a key commissioner in the region, notably in scripted with shows including Danish crime drama Trom, Norwegian thriller Furia and Swedish drama Threesome.

Filippa Wallestam

These changes follow the exit of Lindemann’s predecessor Anders Jensen in June after the joint impacts of the cost-of-living crisis, the deterioration of the advertising market and increased churn following price increases, led Viaplay to pull its long-term financial guidance.

Lindemann said that the company will be pulling out of the Baltics completely and now focus on its “core Nordic, Netherlands and Viaplay Select operations” as it explores “downsizing, partnering or exiting our other international markets”, which includes the UK, US, Canada and Poland.

Viaplay is to discontinue its low tier non-sports offering in each of these international markets, in order to focus on its sports offering and the sale of non-sports content through its Viaplay Select business.

The exec also said that the group is to conduct an immediate strategic review of the entire business to consider its options “including content sublicensing, asset disposals, equity injections or the sale of the whole group.”

Last month, the business restructed its operating model to implement a country-based system, with changes to the senior management structure that also saw Lindemann named interim CEO of Swedish and Finnish operations.

Jorgen Madsen Lindemann

Viaplay income plummets

Linedemann unveiled these sweeping changes alongside Viaplay’s Q2 results, which saw sales hit SEK4.6bn  ($450m), up 16% from SEK3.7bn  on the previous year, but negatively impacted by a 16% drop in ad revenue. Viaplay’s Q2 operating income plummeted by SEK6.5bn ($630m) on the quarter, with a net income of minus SEK5.8bn ($560m).

Streaming numbers have been revised and are now expected to reach around 7 to 7.2 million total subscibers by the end of the year. Previous estimates were that the global total would reach around 9 million by the close of 2023.

“The content investments that have been made are not all paying off,” said Lindemann. “Furthermore, the pursuit of subscriber volume growth has been at the cost of value, especially when it comes to our partner agreements.”

The exec said that, going forward, Viaplay’s 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.”

He said that the group would focus its “attention and resources on those markets where we can compete for the long term, and where it can “generate healthy returns.”

Looking ahead to the second half of the year, Lindemann said Viaplay expects to continue to feel the pressure of “rising content costs, due to higher original content costs, built-in sports rights inflation, and adverse currency effects.”

Viaplay now expects full year group operating losses of at least $83m for 2023, before a possible return to profitability in 2024.

This article was updated to include the information that Viaplay plans to exit the UK, US, Canada and Poland as well as the Baltic markets.

Read Next