RTS Cambridge Convention: International Keynote - Mike Fries

RTS Cambridge Convention: International Keynote - Mike Fries

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Thursday, 12th September 2013
"Mike Fries and Peter Bazalgette"

Fresh from buying Virgin Media for £15bn, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries said the majority of Virgin's growth would come from getting already-connected homes “to do more with us. It is less to do with connecting more homes – this is a relatively mature market.”

He said he expected “mid-single digit growth. We have a number of revenue sources: broadband; B2B; and video (where it is all about innovation). I do think there is room for growth here.”

Fries described Vodafone’s recent investment in German cable as “a massive endorsement of Liberty’s investment in the UK”.

But he conceded that Virgin is not yet good enough at getting its content onto lots of devices and that its user interface lags behind Horizon, Liberty Global’s user interface in much of continental Europe. 

“Virgin’s Tivo user interface is not as good as Netflix’s. We are addressing this with Horizon – our version of TiVo on the continent. We have asked Tivo to continue its path of innovation – so that its product will look more and more like Horizon,” he added.

Fries described Liberty Global in Europe as “an infrastructure investor – we want to be a gateway to the best content”.

He explained: “Our version of the platform business thrives on scale. If we don’t build scale – to acquire content – we won’t survive… We are spending enormous amounts on acquiring content – $4 to $5 a month per subscriber – and twice that in the UK. Our content spend is growing far faster than our total revenues.”

However, he added that the Virgin platform “is naturally hedged because of the increasing demand for broadband”.

Fries’s interviewer, RTS President Sir Peter Bazalgette, pointed out that society is inexorably moving to regulating the internet – particularly in restricting access to pornography and pirated IP – and that ISPs such as Virgin Media are increasing being forced into a gatekeeper role.

Fries said that Virgin would naturally co-operate with government in relationship to child safety. “But when it comes to IP piracy, it has to be a level playing field – all ISPs have to be doing the same thing,” he said.

Fries argued that government moves on net neutrality represent a more serious and immediate threat to ISPs’ commercial interests.

The international keynote by Mike Fries, president and CEO of Liberty Global, was produced by Helen Scott. He was interviewed by RTS president Sir Peter Bazalgette.

Report by Gordon Jamieson. Photo by Paul Hampartsoumian.


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