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Fries: ‘US embarrassing on neutrality’

March 11, 2015

From Nick Snow in Brussels

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, told delegates at Cable Congress that the US was just “embarrassing” on Net Neutrality. He said he had no idea what problem regulators thought they were trying to fix and that European authorities had a more sophisticated approach.

“No one wants to block anyone, but we have to able to manage the network, we have to be able to provide specialised services,” he declared over an, ironically, patchy Skype call.

On other matters he unsurprisingly said consolidation is good and, again, he preferred European takeover regulation to that in the US. He said Liberty would continue to infill and would press on with quadplay. “Our mobile customers are 75 per cent less likely to churn than others.” He also claimed Project Lightspeed in the UK – building out fast access to anyone within 50 million of an existing connection – was predicated on a 30 per cent ROI.

On rumoured bids from Vodafone he declared himself a fan of their cable buys, but rejected the idea a takeover was likely: “I still prefer our model.”

Conversely, he poured cold water on the idea of a Liberty bid for ITV. “We’re happy to hold a small stake, it was opportunistic. We think we can work with the team there on content and expanding the ITV brand across Europe.”

He had a warning for content companies as a whole: “We want quality, not linear tonnage.” He said the days of making operators take channels they don’t want in order to get the ones they do would soon pass. He warned that VoD is growing and homes with Horizon double the growth rate, “but the content guys are smart, they will work out a new model.”

Finally, he confirmed the small investment in Formula E was a chance to get in on the ground floor in a sport that could prove popular with millennials, and, no, he hadn’t driven one of the cars yet.

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