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Modern Times Group Draws Record Sales, Strong Operating Profits in First Quarter

Variety logo Variety 4/22/2017 Elsa Keslassy
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Modern Times Group punched record sales and a 15% increase in operating profits during the first quarter of this year, bolstered by its big push into premium content as well as its thriving streaming platforms Viaplay and Viafree.

Operative profits reached SEK 183 million ($20 million) while net sales were up 11% to SEK 4.2 billion ($4.7 billion) and earnings before interest and taxes rose by 22%. It was the third consecutive quarter with organic sales growth of more than 5%.

MTG has been ramping up investments in both linear and streamed entertainment products. The company for instance launched Viafree in Sweden, Norway and Denmark last year. The video streaming service is dedicated to MTG’s content from free-to-air channels and original productions exclusive to Viafree.

Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, MTG’s president and CEO, said the group’s development and production roster included 50 drama series. Viaplay just commissioned its first original Icelandic show, “Stella Blómkvist,” a thriller which will be directed by “Trapped” helmer Óskar Thor Axelsson.

Viaplay also just had its hit comedy-drama series “Swedish Dicks,” which stars Peter Stomare and Keanu Reeves as private detectives in Los Angeles, picked up by Pop TV, the U.S. cable and satellite network.

As it aimed to focus on the Nordic entertainment business and bolster its digital presence, the company sold its shares in Czech and the Baltic operations. The sales allowed MTG to invest in Nordic original content and increase its shares in online games developer InnoGames to 51%.

“The evolution of gaming is still in its early stages and we are committed to providing gamers and fans with world-class entertainment experiences,” said Jørgen Madsen Lindemann, MTG’s president and CEO.

Lindemann cited the esport game game “Intel® Extreme Masters Katowice,” which attracted 173,000 visitors and over 46 million unique online viewers (thanks to) partnerships deals with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

“We have leading positions in the Nordic streaming market and are stepping up our investments in original TV drama series. We are the global leader in esports and now have a great first investment in the online gaming market,” said Lindemann, adding that MTG has acquired rights to the World Boxing Super Series.

Lindemann discussed the rising popularity of eSports among millenials, which offsets the decline in traditional TV viewing.

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