With the proliferation of content coming from Hollywood, Scandinavia has been facing a linear scheduling issue, exacerbated over the past couple of years under volume deals with the studios. In a first-of-its-kind partnership, Modern Times Group and Sony Pictures Television are looking to address the situation with an exclusive multi-year content cooperation deal. The agreement will give MTG’s 10 Nordic free-TV channels, Viasat movie channels and Viaplay online platform the ability to offer Sony movies and TV series across the region. Jakob Mejlhede, MTG Senior Vice President of Acquisitions & Programming and Chief Content Officer of MTGx, recently told me, “It’s very clear that the online audience is there and ready, and consumes a lot of content. But it’s a challenge to schedule some of our shows.” In Scandinavia, Mejlhede says, “online is a kind of cable for us” and with Hollywood providing more and more content, “when you have to use cable content on regular channels, it doesn’t perform.” He points to shows such as Breaking Bad and Dexter which “get dismal scores on broadcast.” Scandinavian broadcasters have been trying to step away from traditional output deals, but there has been some resistance from Hollywood, Mejlhede contends. “Some are forward leaning,” he says, and this new Sony deal is one such example. “Others are thinking like it’s 1996… If the new Breaking Bad falls into one of our volume deals, and I can’t use it on my cable, then I will have to burn it off in nighttime because dismal figures are more damaging in primetime than if I burn it off at 3 AM. That’s not the way to use product, but we have a commitment,” under some existing deals. “When Europe started doing output volume deals with studios, the stuff we got then was tailored for broad U.S. networks. Now we need to adapt.” The need for U.S. primetime series has been reduced in Scandinavia given the popularity of local content and with the rise of Netflix, HBO and MTG’s own Viaplay, the exec says.
Under the new Sony arrangement, Viaplay subscribers will also be able to access individual shows, movies and TV box sets – either streamed or on a download-to-go basis. MTG’s free and pay-TV channels are available both on the Viasat satellite platforms and virtually all other pay-TV platforms in the Nordic region. Mejlhede says, “This deal is the first of its kind… Now everyone can enjoy Sony Pictures’ amazing stories every day and in many different ways. The future of television is happening right now, and SPT shares our commitment to forward thinking partnerships that reflect the huge demand for recent and classic movies and TV shows on viewer’s own terms and at their convenience.” Andreas Brosjo, Senior Vice President, distribution at SPT adds, “We have enjoyed a long standing partnership with MTG which we are taking to a new level.”