By Supantha Mukherjee
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -Swedish media group Viaplay Group on Thursday reported a 69% rise in subscribers in the second quarter as it expanded to more countries and bought football-focused TV channel Premier Sports in Britain, sending its shares up more than 10%.
Viaplay, which competes with bigger rivals Netflix and Disney+, said the number of paying subscribers rose to 5.55 million in the quarter.
"The steady rate of high growth and improved margins should calm markets that have priced in a collapsing consumer demand for streaming and TV," SEB analysts said.
The streaming service offers original shows, including Nordic Noir such as psychological crime series "Wisting" and "Darkness: Those who kill,", along with a mix of sports ranging from football to rugby.
Already present in 12 countries, Viaplay is now entering the UK with the buyout of Premier Sports, which operates a sports streaming service and TV channels in Britain.
Viaplay plans to expand to at least 21 countries by next year and will face more competition from the likes of Netflix and HBO Max. The company is also in talks with potential partners.
"The partnership discussion is becoming more and more relevant and intense, especially now that the competition is so fierce," CEO Anders Jensen said in an interview.
Viaplay has already partnered with Lionsgate's streaming service Starzplay, offering all Starzplay content on the Viaplay platform.
"We can do it the other way around if it's relevant in the market," Jensen said. "There have been some talks ... but it needs to be value accretive from day one for us, otherwise we won't engage."
Viaplay raised its subscriber target for the year to 7.3 million from 7 million. The outlook does not include Premier Sports' 222,000 paying subscribers, as the deal has not yet closed.
Adjusted operating income fell to 132 million Swedish crowns ($12.93 million) compared with 244 million crowns a year ago as costs related to the group's expansion rose.
($1 = 10.2117 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; Editing by Niklas Pollard and Edmund Klamann)