The Irish FA announced on Wednesday morning that from 2024, the Northern Ireland men’s senior team would see all their games shown live on streaming service Viaplay as part of a new broadcast deal with UEFA.
That has naturally caused some confusion given the lack of information around the Nordic-based company and what it means for fans moving forward.
Here, we answer some key questions about Viaplay...
Viaplay has existed since 2007, when it was created under the name Viasat On Demand by Swedish multimedia company Modern Times Group (MTG), but it was rebranded to its current name in 2011.
It is now run by Nordic Entertainment Group (also known as NENT Group), which was founded as a spin-off of MTG in 2018 and now runs TV channels, radio stations and streaming services.
Viaplay primarily started off showing Nordic noir shows – you know those grim detective shows with subtitles – but has since expanded to cover a wide variety of markets such as UK and American produced shows.
A quick look at their library reveals they now carry shows such as South Park, The Walking Dead, Outlander, The Office and many more, while they also carry shows for a variety of ages.
They even make some of their own original content, with recent drama The Holiday produced by Viaplay but shown on Channel Five.
Currently Viaplay already have a fairly comprehensive roster of sport, so for those who are concerned by their track record, they do have plenty of experience of showing high-level events.
Football fans have their choice of the Premier League, Europa League, Bundesliga or the Damallsvenskan – the highest division of Swedish women’s football.
Motorsport fans can get their fix through Formula One or MotoGP, there’s also the Ultimate Fighting Championship, while American sport fanatics will enjoy the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball.
If live sports aren’t your thing, they even have a range of podcasts from American sports website The Athletic and an archive of documentaries across a variety of sports.
At this stage it is unclear due to existing broadcasting contracts.
For instance, with Sky Sports and BT Sport having sizeable broadcast deals with the Premier League, it seems unlikely that Viaplay would also have rights, however they could sort out a deal that they haven’t yet announced.
That is also the case for many of the sports they carry at present, but with there still being five months between now and the channel launching in the United Kingdom there is plenty of time for broadcast rights to be negotiated.
From 2024, Northern Ireland men’s games will be shown exclusively on Viaplay. The deal is for 40 games between Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to be shown over a four-year deal which should encompass the majority – if not all – of Northern Ireland’s games.
That will apply to all competitions they play in, too, from World Cup qualifiers to European Championship qualifiers to the Nations League and even international friendlies.
Outside of that, Viaplay will be the UK’s exclusive home for National Hockey League, IIHF World Championship and Champions Hockey League (all ice hockey); KSW mixed martial arts; ISU figure skating and speed skating, including the ISU World Figure Skating Championships; and the EHF European Handball Championship, EHF Champions League and EHF European League.
They also cover CEV EuroVolley, CEV Champions League, CEV EuroBeachVolley and additional CEV volleyball competitions; World Athletics Continental Tour Gold and World Athletics Indoor Tour; and FIS snowboard and freestyle.
It is set to launch in October of this year.
Unfortunately we don’t know because it hasn’t been launched in the UK yet, nor can you even take out a trial for the same reason. It seems likely that the pricing structure will be released closer to the launch date.
In the US, it costs $4.99 a month (£3.97) for a subscription, however there has been no indication whether that will be consistent with how much it will cost in Northern Ireland.
Across all the Scandinavian countries, as well as the Baltic states, Poland, the USA and the Netherlands, but there are plans for them to expand into new markets.
After launching in the United Kingdom, there are plans for Viaplay to expand to Austria, Canada, Germany and Switzerland, with all four countries having a 2023 launch date.
Anders Jensen, group president and CEO of NENT Group: “This is Viaplay’s biggest UK sports milestone so far. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have exciting young teams that millions of fans will be able to follow exclusively on our world-class platform. These matches are in good hands. We work closely with UEFA in the Nordic and Baltic regions and know how much national sides mean to supporters. Viaplay’s multi-territory partnerships with rights holders will be a key advantage as we challenge further in the UK sports market. The timing is also advantageous with these rights coming on stream in 2024, which allows us time to build our UK brand and to innovate the Viaplay viewing experience even further.”
Guy-Laurent Epstein, marketing director at UEFA: “We are delighted to enter this new partnership with Viaplay with its expansion into the UK. With Viaplay’s long-lasting football track record, we are confident that football fans across the UK will be part of the journey of each of the three nations and will be offered excellent coverage of the UEFA national team football competitions between 2024 and 2028, whichever screen they choose to use.”