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Liberty focusing on comprehensive content rights rather than ‘scale play’

Liberty Global’s key priority in content is to secure comprehensive rights to enable it to deliver on any device at any time, as well as rights that differentiate its service in individual markets, rather than make a big ‘scale play’ acquisition, according to chief programming officer Bruce Mann.

Speaking exclusively to Digital TV Europe at Cable Congress, Mann said Liberty was “feeling its way around” and would not “dive into a scale play” in terms of making a big content acquisition until the right opportunity presents itself.

“There may be a point where we look for a scale opportunity but we haven’t found something on the content side yet that merits that investment. We’re very happy with what we have done,” he said.

Mann said that, overall, Liberty Global looks at making investments across four content categories – FTA assets, production assets, sports assets and OTT digital assets – with acquisitions tailored to the individual markets in which it operates.

“We literally have to have 12 distinct video strategies across the pan-European market,” he said.

Speaking about Liberty’s most recent content move – its investment in expanding Asia-based OTT TV provider Iflix – Mann said this could be relevant for Netflix’s emerging markets business in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It is indisputable that OTT services are going to become increasingly important to the ecosystems. This is a great opportunity for us to get into an investment and really see how they work and understand that,” he said.

“We have an emerging market business down in Latin America, which could have relevance for this over time. For us it was an interesting opportunity.”

Mann said the bulk of Liberty’s spend on content is line with the traditional broad-based cable pay TV model. However, he said the company was looking first and foremost to secure comprehensive multi-platform and time-shifted rights to all content, and second, to seek out a degree of exclusivity or distinction for its offering on a market-by-market basis.

“The thing we are focusing on now is the acquisition of additional rights, because we need to meet the consumers’ needs for the way they are getting content, whether it’s replay TV, temporary download or all access to all devices. It’s really key. There is a tremendous focus from my team on getting access to all the rights,” he said.

Mann said Liberty was also looking to secure exclusive drama content in individual markets, but that it had no plans to compete head on with big OTT TV and pay TV providers.

“We are starting to invest in exclusive drama and will continue to do so hopefully at an accelerated pace because we need those things that we stand for an have our own IP in those owned-by and ‘created-by’ properties, but it will be within our budget. We are not trying to out-Sky Sky or out-Netflix Netflix. What we are trying to do is give customers access to a broad range of the best brands and things they can’t get anywhere else, but at a point where it makes sense for us from a marketing standpoint and economically,” he said.

In premium sports content, Liberty has invested heavily in Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland in premium sports. However, in markets such as the UK Virgin Media is focusing on offering the content that others – BT and Sky – are spending huge amounts of money on, differentiating itself by providing access to both, said Mann.