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Liberty Global to create single advanced set-top for all Europe

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries

Liberty Global is to consolidate its next-generation set-top platforms, including ultimately that of Virgin Media in the UK, as part of a project dubbed ‘Eos’ by the company.

Eos is in turn part of the wider strategic plan, formerly known as ‘Liberty 3.0’ and now, according to president and CEO Mike Fries, to be known as Liberty Go. This will see the company reduce costs across the board through, among other things, common technology platforms, and build revenue through marketing advanced services.

Speaking to analysts as Liberty Global reported strong first quarter results yesterday, Fries described Eos as “a set-top we plan to roll out everywhere at some point, including in that market [the UK]”.

Virgin Media announced yesterday that it planned to roll out a new 4K-ready box that will be based on its existing TiVo platform. Speaking on the analyst call, Liberty’s chief technology officer Balan Nair said that this would be a “pretty high-powered box that will get a refreshed TiVo UI on it later this year” but added that “our goal is to get Horizon across all of Europe” ultimately, referring to the advanced set-top platform already in use in multiple Liberty Global markets. He said that Eos would be the “engine for next generation video” for the company.

Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge, also on the call, said that the TiVo-based box would “give us a lot more functionality for our customers” and enable the operator to remain competitive with Sky. The latter has recently launched its own high-end box, Sky Q.

Mockridge said that Eos would be “a big part” of the company’s plan to improve its TV offering in the future.

Earlier on the call, Fries described Eos as a “project name for our cloud-based set-top box” that would be “trialing later this year” and would be “faster, cheaper and provide more functionality than today’s Horizon box”.

He said that Liberty’s new Wi-Fi router, the Connect Box, which is now available in multiple European markets, “sets us even further apart from the competition” by providing up to 1Gbps across in-home networks. “This is a big issue,” he said. “When you’ve driven average customer speeds up to 100Mbps but you don’t control the in-home WiFi router, customers complain.”

Touching on the broader Liberty Go project, Fries said that this would encompass measures to increase revenue as well as trim costs, with about 60% of the value creation coming from the revenue side. On the cost side, the company is centralising elements of its operation including product development, core network management, IT and its supply chain, including consolidation of its customer care operations.

Increasing revenue will be based on upping prices thanks to new products based on Horizon, WiFi and faster broadband speeds. The company is targeting building out to seven million new homes over three years, having added 210,000 new build homes in the first quarter.

Fries did not explain the origin of the Eos name on the call. In Greek mythology, Eos is the goddess of dawn. Coincidentally or not, it is also the name of media mogul Barry Diller’s private yacht, one of the largest three-masted rigged schooners afloat and a vessel much admired by Fries’ boss, Liberty Global chairman John Malone.