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Nent restores full channel pricing, resumes sports-rights payments

Pan-Nordic broadcaster Nordic Entertainment (Nent) Group has reintroduced full pricing for its sports channels in Denmark, Finland and Sweden and will also resume sports-rights payments.

In mid-March, the broadcaster moved early in response to the Covid-19 pandemic by cutting the price of its sports packages and warning rights-holders that it would not pay any rights fees for postponed properties until they recommence.

The move comes with many properties to which Nent holds the rights having either resumed or set a date to recommence.

The top two divisions of Danish football, German football’s Bundesliga, mixed martial arts’ Ultimate Fighting Championship and motorsport’s Nascar all restarted in May. The English Premier League and the Indycar motorsport series are both set to resume this month with Formula 1 and golf’s European Tour poised to return in July.

From July 1, the Viaplay sports package will return to its previous monthly prices of SEK399 (€38.15/$42.44) in Sweden, DKK309 (€41.46/$46.13) in Denmark and €29.99 ($33.36) in Finland. The prices had been cut to SEK109, DKK99 and €9.99, respectively.

The monthly prices of Viaplay ‘Total’ packages, which include films, entertainment series and sports, will also return to their previous monthly levels of SEK449 in Sweden, DKK339 in Denmark and €34.99 in Finland.

The packages in Norway will revert to their normal pricing “at a later date”. The sports package in Norway was reduced to NOK119 (€11.05/$12.29) per month.

Nent said today (Monday) that the resumption of the expensing of sports-rights payments would take effect “as leagues and competitions recommence”.

Speaking upon the presentation of first-quarter financial results in April, Nent reiterated its tough stance on sports-rights fees, saying that it would also expect to be refunded for events that end up being cancelled. It announced on the same day that it had been refunded 100 per cent of its rights fee for ice hockey’s cancelled 2020 IIHF World Championship.

At the time, Nent group president and chief executive Anders Jensen said: “We are contractually entitled to on a pro-rate basis get back [rights costs for] any non-concluded sports events, whether that is the Premier League or Champions League or anything else. We will of course not get money back for the matches already played but we will get money back if something is cancelled.”

Nent said then that it expected to reduce its sports cost spend by around SEK200m this year compared to the initial plan.

Commenting on the surge in non-sports viewing as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown, the broadcaster said today: “Viaplay viewing levels have increased substantially in recent months, with limited churn amongst sports subscribers.

“The total number of streams started by non-sports subscribers on Viaplay across the Nordic region was up 42 per cent between 1 April and 27 May compared with the same period in 2019, while sports subscribers started 40 per cent more streams of non-sports content. The number of films bought or rented in the Viaplay Store was up 57 per cent during this period compared with last year.”

Nent launched its Viaplay service in Iceland at the start of April and its Total package on May 15. The price point for the latter remains unchanged at ISK1,599 (€10.59/$11.77) per month.

Analysing the effect of the Covid-19 effect on sports subscriptions, Nent said in April: “Our sports base was only down 11,000 in the [first] quarter but was up compared to last year, which demonstrates that our early decision to reduce the sports package pricing to the TV and Movies price point on March 13 was the right one, even if of course we’ll have a significant short-term effect on our revenue growth.

“New sports sales have been predictably low since the postponement or cancellation of almost all sporting events, but churn has also been very low as viewing of non-sports content by sports subscribers has increased dramatically in recent weeks. It is clear that there is a huge build-up in demand for live sports when the leagues and events resume.”