Liberty Global plots cloud Horizon updates, dismisses Netflix threat

Liberty Global is planning updates to its Horizon platform that include a cloud-based interface, and a better remote, CEO Mike Fries revealed, adding that OTT players like Netflix did not pose a competitive challenge.

Speaking at Cable Congress yesterday, Fries said that, with Horizon, Liberty Global is aiming to establish a platform “that gives consumers no reason to go anywhere else,” and said that while Netflix has taught the business valuable lessons about how users wanted to access content, its business model was challenged.

Fries said that several new features were coming in the next iteration of Horizon. “One will be a better remote. We have a remote that has a keyboard on the back, for example, so you can easily search for things without poking through a screen.”

Fries also said that Liberty would update Horizon’s user interface, moving it from the set top box to the cloud, allowing Liberty to update and manage it over the web.

“Horizon as a concept is here to stay, but Horizon as a technology will evolve. The user interface will move to the cloud. Network PVR elements of it will be enhanced. Things will get smaller. The UI will evolve as well and get slicker. We’ll bring in new apps and pieces to the puzzle,” said Fries.

However, he would not comment on whether Virgin Media would adopt the Horizon platform or stick to its current TiVo offering, on completion of Liberty’s planned buyout of the UK operator.

Asked about new competition from OTT players in the market, Fries said that the aim of Horizon, and other platforms, was to integrate web access and apps on the TV, and to offer subscribers access to content from multiple devices.

“I think the Netflix business model has challenges. When 70% of your revenue is being paid to content providers and your average EBITDA per customer is US$0.50 per month, I’m not so sure that that’s a sustainable model,” he said.

“Add to that the fact that with 3 million customers in the international marketplace, they’re losing US$400 million per year – I don’t know if that is sustainable. So I’m not worried about their business, quite frankly from a competitive point of view. If we do our job right, they’ve got no shot.”

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