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Fries: Mobile is next target, Netflix: no thanks

March 6, 2013

Nick Snow@Cable Congress

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries
Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, told Cable Congress that mobile services were the next landmark on the European expansion road map.

Speaking to CNN’s Becky Anderson in the day’s set-piece interview, Fries said Liberty had taken a low key approach to mobile up to now, but not anymore. He said one of the attractions of Virgin Media was its success in quad play provision and what Liberty can learn from it: “Quad play is needed and it’s not actually that difficult, you can do an MVNO deal.” Fries admitted they had looked at the acquisition route in mobile but this was very complex and ‘tough.’

On other current developments:

  • The Virgin deal: It makes perfect sense and is good value; we share the same DNA. There is a lot to be said for scale – with equipment suppliers, with financial markets, with content providers.
  • More acquisitions: For sure if we have opportunities where we already have critical mass; Benelux, Germany, Switzerland… probably not CEE; it is becoming a smaller and smaller part of the whole but we are still committed to it.
  • Content: We have 50+ channels in Chello and they do very well. Where will they be strategically in years to come in a VoD, personal media world; hard to say?
  • Sports rights: We’re not that kind of content company, and no I don’t see us competing with Sky or anyone else for exclusive rights to sport. We believe in open access to content.
  • TiVo: I can’t say what the future holds (viz Horizon) – we haven’t completed the deal yet. I can say TiVo has done a fantastic job for Virgin.
  • Netflix: I don’t envy a business that spends 70% of its revenue on content, makes a margin of only 50c a home a month and has huge national marketing expenses; is that sustainable? But we have learned a lot from them about how consumers want their content.
  • What keeps me awake? National regulators, and in particular their relationship with often state owned incumbent telcos. They are unpredictable.


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