Long reads

The Euro50 Q&A – Mike Fries, Liberty Global

Liberty Global, with Mike Fries as CEO and president, has seen strong subscriber growth, driven by bundling, this year, and is pushing forwards to the launch of its next-generation Horizon box.

Age 48

Education MBA, Columbia University; BA, Wesleyan University

Previous positions 21 years in the cable business, all with Liberty or predecessor companies.

Last year’s highlights This was one of our best years ever for subscriber growth.  We definitely found a new gear, driven by 25-50Mbps bundles. On the M&A front we continue to find great consolidation opportunities in Europe (e.g. Poland, Germany, etc). Our organisational structure and talent base across 20,000 employees has never been stronger, thanks to some innovative leadership programmes.  All in all, a very good year for us.

Most significant industry development Probably the rise and fall of Netflix in the US financial markets.  There is certainly room for over-the-top video providers, but the business model for independent aggregators is a tough one. If everyone in America dropped their satellite or cable TV service and subscribed to Netflix, then pay TV channels and programme suppliers would lose US$25 billion (€19.5 billion) in annual revenue. Not as simple as it seems.

Goals for next year Number one is launching our new entertainment and media platform – Horizon. This is a game changer for us. We’re also pushing ahead on several MVNO deals. While the jury is out on wireless and the quad play, we want to be ready in our core markets. Of course, we’ll continue focusing on organic growth and building scale in Europe.

Industry challenges and opportunities Our biggest challenge is definitely the regulatory environment. The EU remains generally supportive of cable’s ability to innovate with new and better products, and stimulate infrastructure-based competition. But we continue to face unreasonable pressure from national regulators who are frustrating cable consolidation and/or pushing for unreasonable access structures – usually at the insistence of incumbent telcos with government ownership. Enough said.

Alternative career choice That’s easy – lead singer in a rock band (a real one).

Most admired personality I have to go with my chairman, John Malone – even though he’s pretty good at avoiding the public eye. That’s just one of his many great qualities.

Life outside work Still running, skiing, surfing, singing and hanging with my kids. Also chairing or heavily engaged in a number of civic or charitable organisations in Denver.