Anders Jensen, the sleek and mild-mannered president and CEO of Nent Group, has transformed the company’s Scandinavian streamer, Viaplay, into Netflix’s biggest European competitor since taking its helm in 2018. Jensen, who describes himself as a “content nerd,” is the recipient of Variety’s Vanguard Award, which will be presented at Mipcom in Cannes this year. He is behind the company’s big strategic move into scripted content.
Jensen joined the company in 2014 when it was part of the listed conglomerate Modern Times Group, before it split into two companies and rebranded its entertainment assets into Nent Group. Jensen says having a focused approach is a prerequisite to have a chance to thrive in today’s increasingly concentrated media landscape.
“A lot of companies that end up in conglomerates typically tend to be ‘de-focused,’ but if you want to transform your business, then you need to be laser-focused on what it is that you want to achieve, especially for us, as we’ve been growing from a local regional player into something else,” Jensen says.
Viaplay is indeed preparing to conquer the U.K., U.S., Canada and Germany, among 16 new international markets, by the end of 2023. Jensen says his previous experience traveling the world and living in five different countries while leading European telco groups (including Vodafone) has nurtured his love of foreign cultures.
“My career has been quite international because that’s how the telecom industry has evolved … and it’s been quite beneficial for the role I took on at Nent Group,” says Jensen, who lived and/or worked in the U.K., Italy, Asia and Hungary, among other territories.
Jensen, who was selected to receive Variety’s Vanguard Award at Mipcom for his significant contribution to the global business of entertainment, says he “was born in the late 1960s and grew up in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, which was the golden age of television. I’ve always had a profound love of series and films; and I’m an [all-rounder] — I can appreciate everything from pretty niche to big blockbusters.”
Viaplay has set itself apart from rival streamers thanks to the strong Scandi flavor of its original content across different genres, from the female-driven relationship drama series in Josephine Bornebusch’s “Love Me” and Henriette Steenstrup’s “Pørni” to the Nordic noir shows including “Those Who Kill.”
Jensen says the company will stick to that editorial line even if it’s planning to deliver two English-language films per year, kicking off with “Hilma,” a biopic of the revolutionary Swedish artist and feminist Hilma af Klint starring Lena Olin (“Enemies: A Love Story”) and directed by her husband, Lasse Hallström (“The Cider House Rules”).
“Hollywood has been a driving force for the creation of movies and content in general; but in Sweden, where I’m from, local content has always played a very important role — like in France, Italy or Germany — because the tonality of how we do things is slightly different,” says Jensen.
Reflecting on the pandemic’s impact on viewing habits, Jensen says it’s “opened people’s eyes to streaming maybe a bit sooner than otherwise would have been the case if there was no pandemic,” but the real shift is “in the way we work and how we view the world.”
Throughout the years, Jensen says he’s always reminded himself of the importance of being curious.
“Whether it’s new technology or people or business opportunities, curiosity is a fantastic way to stay active, because if you start shutting your mind, then you will cease to develop as an individual, and as professional.”