Variety Vanguard Award: Anders Jensen to Be Honored for Contributions to the Global Television Business

Jerome Delhaye, Director of Entertainment division RX France welcomes the audience with a warm welcome. He said, finally, for the flying session where we will meet this year’s recipient of the Variety Vanguard Award, Anders Jensen. 

Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT) has become one of Northern Europe’s most prominent streaming companies in recent years. And Anders Jensen has been the president and CEO of the group since 2018. Becoming partnership is the Variety we support, as we see in the industry names including Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, HBO’s Richard Plepler, and many more.

For this year, I would like to invite Manori Ravindran to join me on stage. The international editor, Variety Manori Ravindran welcomed everyone. She said” I am pleased to present the Variety Vanguard Award, the priceless event that made a significant contribution to the global television business. 

She further added, this year’s recipient is Anders Jensen, CEO, and president of NENT, who helped transform the Canadian business, which was a global heavyweight for content. Under NENT, Anders’ made her mark internationally under services like streamer buyer, play, which has gone through the regional offering through the fast-expanding as far. It will launch its services next year in the UK and 16 markets by the end of 2023. 

Anders Jensen, NENT Group CEO was the recipient of this year’s Variety Vanguard Award, where he says the Scandinavian company is planning to emulate a BritBox-style model for Nordic Noir when it originates in the US this December.

He also discussed the NENT’s Group-backed streaming service Viaplay’s ambitious expansion strategy. He said they are planning to reach around 16 markets by the end of 2023. This includes countries like Canada, the U.K., Austria, Germany, and more. 

The US launch for the company, whose original slate involves the likes of “Pørni” and “Swedish Dicks”, all is going to become in December, however, the exact date is unknown. Anders Jensen said the market is the most interesting era in content production since the 1920s ’30s because things are changing so fast. 

Elsewhere in the conversation, Jensen discussed the streamer’s aggressive sports benefits strategy in countries like Poland, where Viaplay launched in August, and the Netherlands, where the service will debut next year. Later, Viaplay will be the exclusive home for Formula 1 as well as Bundesliga soccer coverage.

Manori Ravindran asked Anders how you are actually working out for the expansion? Jensen replied we are looking at all the companies that realistically we go to. We are looking to expand the streaming platform-based business in different parts of the world.  

He further added, then it’s about the relevance of the content we produce and especially of course our regional content. We take a dual approach, whether we are going through a country focused on playing original entertainment content only or we do a broader approach as we have done with the Nordic successfully. Ultimately it’s all about content relevancy. 

Then Manori Ravindran asked, what is your survival offering to American Subscribers? Anders Jensen replied the American subscribers will love the content we offer. What we sometimes prefer as a Nordic mark. I think that definition is becoming a little dated actually because it’s more a matter of perspective to content, it isn’t actually a crime. 

But it’s perspective that how you produce and write the manual script and how you make the dialogue works and how we want to reflect this and the difference in the audience in the US We want to find that initial audience, we are producing the content for our countries anyway and secure the rights also in the US. 

Manori asked whether Viaplay in the US might do for Nordic content Stateside. She said, what the BBC and ITV streaming service BritBox has done for the appearance of British programming. Jensen agreed that it’s a good analog; the four-year-old SVOD is “a good analogy to use.” There are quite a few similarities,” 

And, like BritBox, NENT Group’s service will “evolve over time.” “We are doing English-language original content as well, and we have recently greenlit some U.S.-based originals as well. Jensen said that it’s all a matter of establishing a point from which we can grow and work with others.

And I think there will be propelling of proper service in the upcoming year and everyone will try to make it more attractive and less hassle for the subscribers. It’s good to have a feed from the ground from the more attracted territories. 

Then Manori Ravindran asked, what do you have target subscribers, based on the terms of the U.S. Anders said that we are targeting 6 million subscribers in the international market. He further added that basically all our money is spent on talent, on content, and on tech. All the costs that you had in the traditional broadcasting business are going away. 

The production business is operating at a different margin; this became a very technical point. But it’s a different margin, and for us, as a listed company, the equity store has to be very clear. The lucrative operation is not suitable for us. 

A non-scripted we love it; we do a lot of it usually by the market by market approach. It was the combination of unlocking the potential and streamlining and taking the proceeds into sales and reaching the broader market. How are you future-proofing the business? For example, Disney+, HBO Max, and others are planning to launch in the market. How are you future proof, asked Manori.

Anders Jensen replied that we are happy to work with other US partners sometime, but there is a lot of content we’re buying that has been more a matter of putting our part with others. There is a lot of not exclusive agreement; now, we take that money from those partners to new content development partners and produce content that is unique and exclusive to us. It’s a redshift of the capital base. 

Manori asked, how are you going for a sports entertainment approach? Are there some countries that you are going with? Jensen replied that “its country by country approach.” in general when it comes to bidding for sports.

“We have a long history of sports in the Nordics that goes back to pay-TV and linear TV days. We have now moved all of that over to streaming,” explained the CEO of NENT.

“We stream around 60,000 hours of live sports every year,” said Jensen. He further added that NENT has the European Premier League, Formula 1, and NHL rights in nine countries. “In terms of triple-A rights, one of the biggest rights in sports. We have more than anybody else in the world actually.”

“That is just a fantastic opportunity because of its craftsmanship, and we’re, it’s pretty good at it,” added Jensen. “But it is not for every country. I am sure Sky would have a word or two to say if we went for Premier League in the UK, and I am not sure that would be a fantastic idea for us. It is a matter of where you want to play and where you want to stay and create something that is viable.”

The combo of sports with original content in countries like Poland, the Netherlands, and the Baltics, makes Viaplay a unique proposition in households that allows the company to monetize in “slightly different ways” to all the competitors.

Jensen does not rule out any bid for sports rights in the UK yet, but the executive notes it will be a measured move that will target high-profile sports first.

“One does not have to go for the biggest rights in every country,” said Jensen. “In Germany or the UK those are big-ticket rights … maybe we can start with the smaller sports rights and build from there.”

Jensen said that language is no more a barrier; great content will find its audience. Things are changing, so we need to play on different levels to be there and compete. He further said, “video streaming as technology has lots of benefits, but there are also some limitations in geographies of where you put your streaming, operations, and more. 

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