Liberty Global to increase online content focus

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries

Liberty Global will look to increasingly focus its content spend online, according to company CEO Mike Fries.

Speaking at Goldman Sachs’ 25th Annual Communacopia Conference in New York yesterday, Fries said that currently Liberty spends some US$2 billion per year on content, most of which is currently “spent on channels like Discovery”.

“An increasing amount of that is spent on rights for content that we provide online – that we provide in our replay formats and our SVOD platforms. That will be the nature of where we’re headed.”

Ask specifically about M&A opportunities in terms of content, Fries said that Liberty would remain “opportunistic” when it comes to deals but played down the often speculated-about potential for Liberty to buy ITV – the UK broadcaster it holds a 9.9% stake in – saying “I don’t see any massive vertical integration big bangs.”

“The ITV stake has been a good investment for us and I think that is a great company,” said Fries. “Maybe some day it could be an interesting thing for Virgin to take another step [in], but not today.”

Fries cited last year’s joint investment with Discovery in Lionsgate as a “very good” relationship and said that work is now underway to “work more closely together, putting capital to work strategically together as opposed to waiting for things to fall off the tree.”

He also said that Liberty and Discovery’s joint ownership of UK production company All3Media is “starting to provide benefits in Ireland, where we’re getting the best shows they have onto our broadcast networks”.

“We are looking at some of our own independent production opportunities – small stuff though. Let’s say we’re moving slowly into this space and I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Fries.

Discussing Liberty’s recently announced Netflix partnership, which will make the SVOD provider’s content available to its subscribers in 30 countries around the world, Fries said the deal is “not disruptive in the least”.

“It’s additive to the overall content product that we’re offering to consumers and I think it’s going to be a win-win,” said Fries.

“In the UK where 800,000 of our customers have the Netflix app built into the box, they watch more television, they pay us more… and they churn less. Why? Because they have everything right there.”

In August, All3Media announced it will make four original drama series for cable platforms owned Liberty, marking the first time Liberty has agreed to a multi-territory deal to create exclusive original programming for its customers.

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