MIPCOM: Connectivity trumps content for Liberty Global investing in both

fibre_broadbandBroadband connectivity, rather than an exclusive content play, will remain at the heart of Liberty Global’s consumer proposition, according to Bruce Mann, the cable operator’s content chief, speaking at MIPCOM this morning.

Mann said that Liberty had focused on getting superior connectivity as its USP. However, incumbent telecom operators that are heavily financed had become more aggressive and were investing in content. “We are trying to have a degree of distinction although not an exclusivity play,” he sad. He added that Liberty has invested in content, including the acquisition of free to air channels like TV3, Belgium and ITV.

Mann said Liberty is also investing in sports rights. As well as acquiring premium rights in some markets, it has also invested in niche sports like formula E, he said.
Liberty has also invested in content companies, and finally, said Mann, it has invested in a small way in OTT and digital content providers.

“For exclusive content our approach is to be strategic and surgical. We haven’t gone heavy there. Our proposition is to be strong in connectivity,” he said. Liberty said that only a few brands would be able to go direct to consumer.

Mann said that established media companies would prefer a gradual evolution from today’s viewing pattern to non-linear viewing to a disruptive shift. However, he said , the likelihood was that there would be a dramatic shift at some point soon.

Joachim Stephan, senior partner and managing director, The Boston Consulting Group, speaking on the same session at MIPCOM, said that in considering the shift from linear to non-linear viewing, it is likely that one of four basic scenarios will play out. One is that there will be a gradual natural evolution to online video. However, this is not seen as particularly likely. It is possible that incumbent aggregators will dominate navigation, via their control of set-top boxes and their ability to market their navigation capabilities.

Stephan said that he was sceptical about different operators aggregating content exclusivity, which would mean consumers would have to take multiple subscriptions to get everything.

Stephan said that the emergence of significant numbers of direct-to-consumer services is a third possibility. The fourth scenario is that SVOD providers with global scale take over the video business by bundling in free to air broadcast and linear channels. “This is potentially the most disruptive scenario for the operators,” he said.

Growth in traditional pay TV bundles is expected to decline across all platforms, said Stephan, because of the growing popularity and availability of online content. This is not only related to preferences, but to connectivity, he said. In the US, 96% of homes have access to video-ready broadband infrastructure, compared with only 74% in t Europe. In the US, most mobile data traffic is also now coming from video.

Online and mobile video revenues are likely to grow rapidly and be dominated by SVOD, said Stephan. However, attractive advertising-based on-demand is also growing.