A record year and a successful split
The operational momentum of recent years continued into 2018 and again demonstrates that our strategy is working.
2018 was a successful and eventful year for MTG. We delivered higher sales, profits and margins, while at the same time preparing for the split of MTG, which marks the latest chapter in our transformation story. One became two on 28 March 2019 when all the shares that we distributed in NENT Group were successfully listed on Nasdaq Stockholm. Both companies have a bright future ahead of them with attractive offerings and equity stories.
2018 was an eventful year for MTG
The transformation journey that we have been on during the past four years accelerated even further in 2018. We started the year with the proposed merger of our Nordic businesses with TDC Group, in order to create a scale consumer champion providing unique benefits for customers and significant synergies. This combination was later terminated following the take-over of TDC Group by a financial consortium. This was followed by the Board of Directors’ decision to initiate a process to prepare for the split of MTG into two listed companies by distributing all of the shares in Nordic Entertainment Group (NENT Group) to MTG’s shareholders.
We have also continued to actively align our portfolio to the new strategy, which included the divestment of Trace Partners and acquisitions of further shares in ESL, Zoomin.TV and Splay Networks. The February 2019 Extraordinary General Meeting of MTG shareholders voted in favour of the split, and NENT Group was successfully distributed to our shareholders and listed on Nasdaq Stockholm on March 28 2019.
Continued operational performance
The transformation has not been without challenges, so I am proud to report that we again delivered on our profitable growth ambition in 2018. Net sales were up 13% and operating income before items affecting comparability was up 24%, despite being burdened by significant transaction costs related to the TDC deal and split of MTG. The Nordic Entertainment segment continued to perform well in 2018, with the growth in our streaming platforms more than compensating for the headwind from falling linear viewing and subscriber erosion in our satellite platform. MTG Studios reported falling sales and profits, which primarily reflected timing differences in our drama productions, but we did see a positive trend shift at the end of 2018. MTGx sales were up significantly and boosted by the consolidation of InnoGames and Kongregate, and profitable on a full year basis for the first time.
Nova, our Bulgarian business and the only remaining asset in the International Entertainment segment, continued its very healthy performance with significantly increased sales and profits. We signed an agreement at the beginning of the year to sell Nova to PPF Group, which was later disallowed by the Bulgarian Competition Commission. We have subsequently announced the sale of Nova to Advance Media Group and have now received local regulatory approval. Nova will remain part of MTG until the sale is completed in April 2019.
Being at the forefront of the industry
MTG is well-known not only for its innovation but also for being brave enough to challenge and disrupt itself. We always aim to invest our time, energy and money in those areas where our customers spend most of theirs. The adoption of subscription-based streaming services has been very fast, and Nordic penetration levels are now close to 50%. We expect that this level will reach near to 100% in the coming years with multiple subscriptions per household. I am happy that we took the bold decision many years ago to disrupt our business by aggressively promoting our streaming businesses, and this is a key reason why we now not only have leadership positions in the streaming market, but also have higher online market shares than offline. NENT Group is the home of sports in the Nordic region and we have over the past years increased our investments into original content to further differentiate and strengthen our position in this highly competitive but fast-growing market.
Our investments into esports and online gaming are further evidence of our ability to adapt to changing consumer behaviours. We are today the world’s leading esports company due to our investments in ESL and DreamHack, which offer best-in-class national and international events, leagues and festivals. Esports is today one of the most viewed and fastest growing sports, and ESL and DreamHack are already global brands and preferred choices for viewers, players, partners and publishers. This is why we have extended our partnerships with Intel and Mercedes-Benz, and signed new deals with the likes of Vodafone, AT&T and McDonalds.
The video gaming market is today worth well above USD 100 billion, which is more than the movie and music businesses combined. Our key investments are in InnoGames and Kongregate. InnoGames runs a portfolio of seven successful free-to-play games that are played on PC or mobile devices, including titles such as ‘Forge of Empires’, ‘Elvenar’ and the newly launched ‘Warlords of Aternum’. Kongregate is firmly established as a leading publisher of mobile and PC games.
A clear vision and a winning team
Both MTG and NENT Group are focused on some of the most exciting entertainment segments. Competition is fierce, and we need to be chosen by our customers every day. The MTG way of doing that is to start by offering high quality entertainment experiences that are value for money. Great content drives engagement, loyalty and satisfaction, which provides us with pricing and buying power. This enables us to reinvest further into our products and we have also made significant progress in identifying and leveraging our broad consumer insight, in order to make our products even more relevant for our customers. Another cornerstone of our strategy is our people. We have over the past years transformed our skillset to match the needs that our new reality requires, and our employees are willing to make that extra effort to make the company successful. We think faster, learn quicker and execute more accurately than ever before. A clear vision and a shared purpose have been fundamental to the successful transformation of MTG from a traditional broadcaster into a digital entertainer, while growing both sales and profits.
Our shared purpose is to create responsible and sustainable entertainment, which is why we have identified strategic priorities based on media responsibility, social impact, business ethics, and environmental care. As MTG and NENT Group start their separate journeys, new corporate responsibility strategies, goals and targets that reflect their individual positioning will be communicated in 2019.
Bright future ahead of us
MTG and NENT Group have bright futures ahead of them. We have talented teams with a clear focus on consumer relevance and market segments with substantial structural growth opportunities. NENT Group is a unique play on the Nordic streaming and content markets, while MTG is a unique play on esports and online gaming. Although MTG and NENT Group will now follow separate paths, we still share a common heritage and approach, a focus on consumer insight and relevant innovation, and a commitment to bring the best possible entertainment experiences to our customers.
On behalf of everyone at MTG, we wish everyone at NENT every continued success. Thank you for the last 31 years together – from the launch of TV3 as the first commercial TV channel in the Nordics in 1987 to the amazing streaming experience of Viaplay today. We have constantly challenged convention, the industry and ourselves, and we have made lifelong friends along the way. Goodbye for now and good luck to all.
Jørgen Madsen Lindemann
President & Chief Executive Officer
An operating and investment company
MTG is completing its transformation into a global digital entertainer by becoming a strategic holding company that provides hands-on operational support to its portfolio companies, and invests in high potential entrepreneurs in esports and gaming through a dedicated venture fund. In doing so, MTG remains true to its core principles of flexibility and agility when adapting to the fast-changing entertainment landscape.
MTG is set up based on the ‘Build and Buy’ approach with an active owner framework.
MTG operates a portfolio of esports and gaming companies that creates a unique network of industry knowledge and covers the whole gaming customer journey – watch, interact, learn and share. MTG’s owned and operated brands are leaders in their respective categories and span original IP, gaming platforms, publishing services and international mega-events.
MTG’s esports (ESL and DreamHack) and gaming (InnoGames and Kongregate) companies develop multiple ways to capitalise on the global appeal of competitive gaming franchises and successful multi-platform games. Their revenue streams are made up of sponsorship deals, media rights sales, event tickets, branded
merchandise, advertising and in-game purchasing.
MTG’s esports companies create original content in multiple languages, and produce branded national and international leagues and tournaments that are attended by thousands of fans – who often travel across the globe to meet star players – and followed by millions of online users across various platforms. MTG operates the world’s largest esports company, ESL, and develops leading category brands, such as Intel Extreme Masters, which is the longest running pro esports circuit in the world.
MTG’s gaming companies develop and publish multi-platform games, primarily free-to-play, that constantly evolve through live ops and new content creation.
MTG invests in high potential young businesses and the talented entrepreneurs behind them. There are two key criteria for such investments: the complimentary nature of the content, platform or software; and the cultural fit and alignment with MTG’s values.
By supporting innovative ideas and the passionate teams behind them, MTG is strengthening the gaming sector from within and scaling new solutions that benefit players, fans and a broad spectrum of stakeholders.
MTG offers start-ups access to a broad range of expertise in building sustainable businesses in a bid to become the preferred partner for entrepreneurs.
Other entertainment companies
Zoomin.TV is a content creator and publisher that is exclusively focusing on Generation Z audiences around the world. Zoomin.TV creates purposeful content in multiple languages that spans such important topics as equality and inclusivity, positive body image and health, as well as current affairs and social issues through the eyes of young viewers. Zoomin.TV also produces exclusive short- and long-form content for strategically important partners like Tencent Video and Baidu in Asia.
MTG’s other holdings include Nova Broadcasting, the leading broadcasting and online media company in Bulgaria; World Boxing Super Series (WBSS), an international professional boxing tournament held annually; and Engage Digital Partners, creators and distributors of sports content.
A value-driven company with its brand identity rooted in corporate responsibility, MTG is built by motivated media and entertainment professionals with diverse backgrounds, substantial operational and investment experience, a wide range of relevant competences and a shared culture.