The big story here is not catalogue size but rather the seismic shift in Nextory’s expansion strategy, that for the first time must be giving Storytel CEO Jonas Tellander pause for thought.
Unnoticed by the English-language publishing media, one of the biggest surprises in global digital publishing took place last week when Sweden’s unlimited subscription service Nextory bought its way into the French market.
The acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, pushed Nextory’s catalogue ahead of rival Storytel (750,000 titles against Storytel’s 700,000) for the first time, but the big story here is not catalogue size but rather the seismic shift in Nextory’s expansion strategy, that for the first time must be giving Storytel CEO Jonas Tellander pause for thought.
For the longest time, Nextory and BookBeat have been chasing Storytel’s shadow when it came to global expansion beyond the Nordics, and for both Nextory and BookBeat the limits have been the European borders.
That remains the case – while Storytel is now in 25 markets across five continents, with 40% of its markets outside Europe, the continent count for both BookBeat and Nextory remains one: Europe itself.
Nextory and BookBeat expansion have essentially followed in Storytel’s footsteps, entering markets where Storytel had already demonstrated opportunity. Finland, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway and Spain and of course Sweden itself.
While Nextory recently launched in Austria and Switzerland, where Storytel is not (yet) a player it did so on the back of its Nextory DE catalogue of German content, so while new markets this was not new ground for Nextory.
Which led to my query back in December 2020:
The big question is what Shadi Bitar will do next, and if he will be willing to step outside the comfort zone of Storytel’s shadow and break meaningful new ground.
This month we had our answer: In acquiring the French subscription service Youboox, Nextory automatically becomes the second biggest player in France after YouScribe, although the actual rebranding may take a short while to become effective.
How much Bitar handed over for Youboox and its 400,000 strong catalogue is not known, although we can assume it came within the limits of the $26 million in funding Nextory raised in 2020.
But are two elements here of real interest to us:
First that France is not a market where Storytel or BookBeat are players (although Nextory will still face stiff competition from YouScribe and Amazon-owned Audible) and this means it will in the future be harder for Storytel or BookBeat to compete should they make a belated entry into the francophone world.
Second, and perhaps more exciting, is this nugget from the Nextory press release:
The acquisition lays a strong foundation for Nextory’s future expansion in France and other French-speaking countries.
The press release also slips in mention that Youboox has,
strong partnerships with large companies such as banks, airlines, hotels and major French telecom operators.
With Nextory’s track record and branding it’s not hard to see Youboox/Nextory becoming a major player not just in France but also potentially in francophone markets like Canada and across Africa. Currently Storytel is not in Canada, and has only one foothold in Africa – in Egypt, via its UAE-based MENA hub.
Likewise the acquisition and rebranding of Spain’s Nubico –
gives Bitar an opportunity to hit the ground running in the Spanish-language markets of Latin America.
The press release tells us that Hélène Mérillon, CEO and founder of Youboox, will remain in situ to drive the “new” company forward, answerable to Bitar.