Concern for United Rugby Championship as broadcaster Viaplay hits financial trouble

Colin Newboult
Viaplay cameraperson at the Dragons v Bulls United Rugby Championship game.

Viaplay cameraperson at the Dragons v Bulls URC game.

Swedish company Viaplay Group has announced plans to withdraw from the United Kingdom market.

They currently own the broadcasting rights for the United Rugby Championship (URC) in the UK after acquiring Premier Sports in July 2022.

Fans will still have access to the sports channels for the time being, with the low-tier non-sport offering being immediately cut.

However, Viaplay are intending to sell those rights and move away completely from their foreign markets, having laid off 25 per cent of their staff.


That includes the UK, Canada and US, with the streaming service instead focusing on its core markets in the Nordics and Netherlands.

Subscriptions have not increased as quickly as Viaplay expected, which has led to serious financial problems at the company.

CEO Anders Jensen resigned in June, and he has since been replaced by Jorgen Madsen Lindemann, who revealed their plans going forward.

“We are today announcing a new strategy and plan, which includes, but is not limited to, focusing on our core Nordic, Netherlands and Viaplay Select operations (which make available a wide range of Viaplay series, films and documentaries through partners around the world),” Lindemann said.

“(We are) implementing a new operational model, downsizing, partnering or exiting our other international markets, rightsizing and pricing our product offering in the Nordics and undertaking a major cost reduction program.”

Unclear picture going forward

The future is, therefore, unclear for both the URC and its UK audience. Some have already paid for an annual subscription, but it is understood that the customers have yet to be contacted by Viaplay.

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

“The weakness in the advertising markets and currency exchange rates are additional factors that we must live with. The international expansion assumptions, including the timelines to profitability, have also been pushed materially into the future since the expansion started.”

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