Netflix no threat, but makes cable better, say Liberty Global, Vodafone

Netflix lifestyleLiberty Global and Vodafone Deutschland do not see OTT video as a significant threat, but rather as something that has stimulated them to provide a better overall experience to their consumers, according to Liberty president and CEO Mike Fries and Vodafone Deutschland managing director Manuel Cubero.

Liberty Global’s “opinion has changed” about OTT, Fries told attendees at the opening panel session at ANGA COM in Cologne this morning.

“A few years ago we were scared about the changes it might bring about to our video [business],” said Fries, who said that Netflix offered an inferior range of content to cable, but had developed a superior user experience.

“It’s not really the content that’s driving people to Netflix, it’s the experience. Today we are providing that kind of experience ourselves,” he said, through the Horizon advanced TV service and mobile app.

“Why pay Netflix for a very narrow range of programming when you can get all the broadcast channels, all the great movies and series, and Netflix-like content from cable? It’s really about providing viewers with the experience. We really have Netflix to thank for [stimulating] that. Almost by definition, where an OTT provider exists, consumers who use it are also better consumers of cable services and broadcast channels.”

Fries said that there had been virtually no change in viewership of linear channels in recent years, despite the growth in non-linear viewing. “There is no need to worry, consumers are loving TV right now,” he said.

Vodafone’s Cubero, who is also CEO of Vodafone-owned Kabel Deutschland, said that without video consumption there would be less demand for broadband, which fed into Kabel Deutschland’s growth. He agreed with Fries that cable had improved its overall TV service thanks to the stimulus provided by OTT services.

Cubero said that Vodafone and Kabel Deutschland had already adopted a similar approach to that of Liberty Global in developing advanced TV services. “We have to have partnerships with the TV station providers. In future we will become or remain partners with all providers of public or private stations and provide apps [and so on] in partnership with them,” he said.

Cubero is expected to be named as interim CEO of Vodafone Deutschland at the start of next month, replacing outgoing chief Jens Schulte-Bockum. Cubero will take on the role of chief commercial officer of the combined outfit on a permanent basis.

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