Posts tagged ‘Mike Fries’

Net Neutrality: have we lost sight of what this issue is really about? #cablecongress

Dominating the political agenda on both sides of the Atlantic, the debate about Net Neutrality is far from resolved.

WWW

But have we lost sight of what this issue is really about?

Speaking at the ANGA COM congress in Köln, Mike Fries, President and CEO of Liberty Global, was asked for his viewpoint on the Net Neutrality debate. His response was immediate and unequivocal. “In my thirty years in the industry, I have never encountered a topic that is less well understood, that is so misinterpreted, misused, and I might even say abused, by different people in the ecosystem of the debate than this.”
With his global perspective, Fries’ frustration is understandable given the timing of his words in the early summer of 2014. The FCC’s examination of the Net Neutrality issue had pitched US commentators, lobbyists and PR machinery at levels of near hysteria. Not many issues of technical legislative detail have US citizens demonstrating in the streets of Washington DC and command headline slots on primetime satirical TV shows.
The Net Neutrality debate in Europe has thus far been conducted in calmer tones, but there’s no doubt that there’s just as much to play for. Fries’ concern that the issue is too important to be hijacked is true on both sides of the Atlantic.

Freedom to grow

When the internet was created 25 years ago, one of the core principles set out by its founders was that there should be a level playing field for those using the internet, irrespective of size and provenance. That principle has been one of the cornerstones of its phenomenal success. The other has been freedom from prescriptive regulatory measures which could have stifled investment, innovation and growth.
Yet the internet of today is a very different place from that of 1989 and the desire to intervene and regulate is perhaps inevitable. The exponential growth of traffic could hardly have been predicted by those early web visionaries. Networks have become increasingly congested, not just by sheer volume but by the variety of types of applications and services with very different needs such as HD video. An open internet remains at the heart of what is being defended; a fair and transparent way to manage the ecosystem to allow the widest variety of services not only to co-exist but to thrive and grow is now the political football.

Access all areas

Fries sees a simple split between two different issues which are being confused. On the one hand, it’s about consumers and the need to ensure that any consumer can go anywhere they want to go on the internet. This, he said at ANGA COM, is a given – and not just for moral or societal motivations. “As a network operator I have no interest in upsetting consumers. And I have no interest Dominating the political agenda on both sides of the Atlantic, the debate about Net Neutrality is far from resolved. But have we lost sight of what this issue is really about?

in upsetting content providers. What good does it do me? I lose on both sides.” On the other hand is the issue between corporations, the question of who pays for building and maintaining the internet highway, and how to manage the volume and complexity of traffic to deliver the best quality service to end users, which Fries maintains is what this debate is really about.

A B2B debate

The task in hand for the European Institutions, looking at this issue as part of the “Connected Continent” regulation, is an unenviable one. The heat and noise surrounding Net Neutrality in the US, coinciding with the European elections, has had an inevitable ripple effect. Yet the ingredients in the debate in Europe are not an exact mirror of the US situation. There is of course the need for harmonisation, and where European Member States have initiated their own regulatory initiatives then a levelling of some kind is not only desirable but necessary. Yet backstop powers already exist for National Regulatory Authorities to intervene against service providers when necessary. So any threat of commercial abuse is already taken care of with existing and specific regulation.
The European Institutions need to achieve a considerable feat – that of creating a regulatory infrastructure which is future proof enough to allow continued innovation and investment whilst negating the desire of individual Member States to take standalone action. And all in a context where regulatory powers already exist.

Managing the traffic

At the heart of this lies the unequivocal need for ISPs to apply effective management tools to their networks to ensure quality of service, and the corresponding requirement for them to do so in a transparent, fair and non-discriminatory way. Finding the regulatory balance to enshrine these principles whilst allowing the web to thrive looks set to dominate the agenda for many months to come.
The proposals made by Mrs Kroes in September 2013 are striking the right balance and Cable Europe supports the Commission’s solution. The Parliament and Council should not jeopardise a proportionate outcome, which will keep a thriving internet ecosystem intact.

 

Cable Congress, 11-13 March 2015, The Square, Brussels

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Cable Congress 2013: Cable is the Place to Be

Clearly, the cable industry has become the place to go if you want an easy life. At least, that’s the impression one could get from listening to Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries at this year’s Cable Congress, and from the news that Deutsche Telekom CEO Rene Obermann is set to join Dutch cable player Ziggo when he steps down from his current role at the end of the year.

It may be a facile comparison, but contrast Fries with his counterparts at Telefonica and Vodafone, based on comments they made at Mobile World Congress at the end of February: Telefonica’s Cesar Alierta took OTT players to task for not investing in the value chain, while Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has long expressed frustration at the level of regulation imposed on telco players in Europe.

Fries, on the other hand, noted that the cable industry is not suffering from these problems, and indeed that they have a good relationship with regulators at the EU level (though national regulators remain a little less enamored of the cable industry, particularly as regards consolidation). More tellingly, after having talked about what a great position the cable industry finds itself in, he said that the next ten years will “present issues we’ve never encountered”. Imagine Alierta or Colao saying that, and sounding like they relish the prospect?

Clearly, Colao has thought of all this, which may have something to do with Vodafone’s German operation looking at buying the country’s top cable player, Kabel Deutschland. This potential merger also highlights another point Fries made at Cable Congress, namely, the growing importance of quad-play.

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Video: Liberty Global to move forwards with mobile plans #CC2013

Mike friesLiberty Global’s plan to roll out a more advanced mobile product in many markets in Europe later this year will allow it to meet demand from a number of its customers for a single bundle from one provider, according to Mike Fries, president and CEO of Liberty Global.

“It’s really a complementary product to our core fixed products and allows us to satisfy certain of our consumers’ needs who want a bundled product…from one provider,” he told DTVE in a video interview at Cable Congress last week.

“We’ve had great success in Belgium and Chile [with mobile] and have a million mobile customers today and Virgin Media has three million mobile customers. Together we’ve got a strong experience base to inch our way into the mobile business cost-effectively and productively and give those consumers who want it a broader experience than us.”

Addressing questions about the rationale for Liberty Global’s acquisition of Virgin Media, Fries said there were both revenue and cost synergies between Liberty Global and Virgin Media, as both buy equipment and content from the same companies.

“We’re in the same business, so I think the synergies are potentially large, and the revenue synergies are large too because they can learn from us and we can learn from them,” said Fries. “We’re in the business of building scale and being more efficient with our balance sheet. There are lots of opportunities there. There are benefits of being bigger, including dealing with regulators,” he said.

He said Liberty Global could benefit from Virgin Media’s experience in business-to-business services and from its wireless experience.

Record-Breaking Results for Cable Congress 2013

Record-Breaking Results in 2013

This year Cable Congress welcomed over 850 senior-ranking attendees from 39 countries.

The high quality of attendees reflected a broad cross section of the industry, with 29% of delegates representing cable operators and service providers, 27% equipment and set top box vendors, 13% content providers. View the full attendee breakdown here.

Cable Congress 2013 came at a time of great activity within the sector and in a city where technology, media and entertainment are leading globally.

Both, Michael T. Fries, President and CEO of Liberty Global, and Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media appeared at the event to talk about their views on the industry and the recently announced merger of the two businesses. Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, told CNBC about plans to enter one of the most competitive and dynamic markets in Europe in an exclusive broadcast interview.

Cable Europe announced fresh data from IHS Screen Digest that showed 5.5% top-line revenue growth across Europe, representing nearly €1bn in new revenues for 2012.

The upward trend is explained by a shift towards digital for customers increasingly relying on the high speed fibre-rich broadband connections for which cable is known as well as the trend of increasingly accessing video content over cable’s high performance telecom networks. Guy Bisson, Research Director at IHS Screen Digest, broke down latest figures and leading trends in cable industry during a CNBC interview and explained why cable providers are extremely well-positioned to capitalize as the industry moves towards content provided over the internet.

For the Cable Congress TV’s executive speaker interviews conducted by Digital TV Europe, visit the event website.

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Liberty Global plots cloud Horizon updates, dismisses Netflix threat

CNN Interview with Mike Fries Liberty Global at Cable Congress_SMALLLiberty Global is planning updates to its Horizon platform that include a cloud-based interface, and a better remote, CEO Mike Fries revealed, adding that OTT players like Netflix did not pose a competitive challenge.

Speaking at Cable Congress last week, Fries said that, with Horizon, Liberty Global is aiming to establish a platform “that gives consumers no reason to go anywhere else,” and said that while Netflix has taught the business valuable lessons about how users wanted to access content, its business model was challenged.

Fries said that several new features were coming in the next iteration of Horizon. “One will be a better remote. We have a remote that has a keyboard on the back, for example, so you can easily search for things without poking through a screen.”

Fries also said that Liberty would update Horizon’s user interface, moving it from the set top box to the cloud, allowing Liberty to update and manage it over the web.

“Horizon as a concept is here to stay, but Horizon as a technology will evolve. The user interface will move to the cloud. Network PVR elements of it will be enhanced. Things will get smaller. The UI will evolve as well and get slicker. We’ll bring in new apps and pieces to the puzzle,” said Fries.

However, he would not comment on whether Virgin Media would adopt the Horizon platform or stick to its current TiVo offering, on completion of Liberty’s planned buyout of the UK operator.

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Cable Congress 2013: Review by Chris Dziadul, Broadband TV News

Mike Fries live interview on stage at Cable Congress 2013

On the evidence of this year’s Cable Congress, which was held in London on March 5-7, the European cable industry is in much better shape now than at any time since the global financial crisis began in 2008.

However, the challenges it faces, especially in securing new revenue streams in what remains a difficult economic environment, cannot be underestimated.

Take the case of mobile services. In a wide-ranging CNN interview, Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s president and CEO, said it would be important for the company to have a quad play option. After all, telcos do and it is not difficult to achieve, with little capital expenditure required.

However, he then went on to say that Liberty Global has already looked at acquiring mobile companies but found the process hard. Indeed, such companies may have a market share of up to 50-70%, but some mobile subscribers will never take cable services.

Perhaps more tellingly, when pressed Fries conceded that he considered mobile a threat as well as an opportunity.

That was certainly not the view of Ewan Mackay, MD, Cable Industry, EALA, Accenture, who contrasted the problems being faced by the mobile industry, certainly in such areas as the rollout of 4G services, with the manner in which cable has successfully responded to the challenges it faces.

Interestingly, he identified connected home, m Health and B2B sales as accelerated growth areas for cable in the future.

Wi-Fi, too, is also looming on the horizon, thanks in no small part to the activities of such operators as Virgin Media and Ono. The former, according to Kevin Baughan, Director, Metro Wireless, Virgin Media Business, has embarked on its London Underground project – begun ahead of the Olympics last year and still being expanded – due to an interest in Next Generation Wireless. It has also undertaken small cell trials in the cities of Newcastle and Bristol and secured concessions in Leeds and Bradford.

Ono, on the other hand, began a public WiFi trial in Alicante last July. Manuel Sequeira, the company’s director of technology, said that it has been very successful and may now be extended, with “lots of lessons” having been learnt from building access points.

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Cable Industry Looks Forward as 2013 Cable Congress Concludes On High Note

NEWS RELEASE

Cable Industry Looks Forward as 2013 Cable Congress Concludes On High Note

(Brussels, 8 March) After three days of debate and discussion on the future of the cable industry, Cable Congress 2013 concluded yesterday in London by sending a strong signal to operators and partners, competitors, investors, policymakers, regulators and consumers that the best is yet to come.

This year’s Cable Congress came at a time of great activity within the sector and in a city where technology, media and entertainment are leading globally. Both, Michael T. Fries, President and CEO of Liberty Global, and Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media appeared at the event to talk about their respective views on the industry and the recently announced merger of the two businesses. The week began by celebrating another strong year for cable at year-end 2012, with continued strong growth in the core lines of business and an unmistakable tipping point into the digital interactive television universe. As Europe experiences an economic downturn, the health of the industry was a frequently mentioned bright spot, as operators in even the hardest hit countries such as ONO in Spain and ZON in Portugal continue to grow and invest.

Manuel Kohnstamm, President of Cable Europe, commented: “The key takeaway is that our markets are irresistibly moving to greater and greater convergence. Cable’s drive to innovate, change and adapt, to consolidate will create significant value to society and a rich and rewarding experience to the consumer. Regulators must recognize this and take a forward-looking analysis of our fast-moving industry. The European communications industry remains fragmented and will need more transnational and national mergers and acquisitions to stand its ground.”

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Virgin Media and Liberty Global leaders meet at Cable Congress #CC2013

The big news that Liberty Global has secured a deal to acquire Virgin Media for US$23.3 billion signals a change at the top of the global cable business and has stoked excitement and interest well beyond the tech sector. Such a combination translates into a world leading broadband communications company with 25 million customers spanning across 14 countries.

In less than two weeks’ time, executives of Virgin Media and Liberty Global and other leading cable executives will convene at Cable Congress to give an inside edge on the latest news that you won’t get anywhere else, share their opinions and predictions and, together with other key industry leaders, discuss the bright future of cable and its customers.

Watch our exclusive CEO interview with Mike Fries, the President and CEO of Liberty Global at 16.30 on Day 1 when Becky Anderson, CNN presenter takes the stage to ask the burning industry questions everyone wants to hear.

Also, be sure not to miss the CEO Keynote Speech at 14.00 on Day 1 when you will hear from Neil Berkett, the CEO of Virgin Media.

Cable Congress 2013 will feature the launch of new industry data with the contribution of fresh IHS Screen Digest data, the latest trends and an incredible line-up of industry all-stars across cable, content, technology and new media. New content, programme updates and speaker interviews are being added regularly to www.cablecongress.comwe’re getting hundreds of hits a day so come see why.

The Online Networking Tool is now live and by registering to attend the conference, you have the opportunity to spend the next two weeks scheduling one-to-one business meetings with Cable Congress delegates.

CABLE CONGRESS GALA PARTY hosted by Virgin Media_small

The Cable Congress Gala Party is an informal get-together for all participants, taking place on 5th March at The London Film Museum. The evening is not only an ideal networking opportunity, but will also offer quintessentially British culinary and cultural experiences, with a sprinkling of entertainment throughout. Read more here.

Gapa party photos

PREMIER OF ‘RECTIFY’ SERIES Sundance Channel

You will be treated to a special screening of the first episode of ‘Rectify’ from the award-winning producers of Breaking Bad, taking place on Day 2 during a special drinks reception. Watch this special sneak peak of Rectify, which premieres exclusively on Sundance Channel this spring!

Liberty Global to Acquire Virgin Media

Liberty Global and Virgin Media have agreed a deal whereby the international service provider will acquire the UK’s sole large-scale cable operator.

liberty global virgin media_smallThe merger of the two companies will create a service provider with 25 million customers across 14 countries.

“Adding Virgin Media to our large and growing European operations is a natural extension of the value creation strategy we’ve been successfully using for over seven years. Virgin Media will add significant scale and a first-class management team in Europe’s largest and most dynamic media and communications market. After the deal, roughly 80% of Liberty Global’s revenue will come from just five attractive and strong countries – the UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands,” said Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries. “Like all of our strategic acquisitions we expect this combination to yield meaningful operating and capex synergies of approximately US$180 million per year upon full integration. But just as importantly, Virgin Media’s market leading innovation and product expertise, particularly in mobile and B2B, will accelerate our own development of these business segments.”

“This deal is good news for the company, its customers and our people. Together, Liberty Global and Virgin Media are in a great position to shake up the industry and bring the full power of digital technology to UK consumers,” said Richard Branson.

More information in Liberty Global’s press release: http://www.lgi.com/pdf/press-release/02-05-Final-Transaction-Announcement.pdf

Liberty Global reveals Horizon numbers

Horizon launch exceeds expectations

Cable giant Liberty Global has sold over 50,000 Horizon subscriptions since the September launch of its next generation platform in the Netherlands. President and CEO Mike Fries said the company will launch Horizon TV in Switzerland later this year, followed by Ireland and Germany next year.

Announcing its third quarter results, Liberty Global added 18,000 digital cable subscribers in the period ending September 30, taking its digital penetration above 50%. The growth of Liberty Global’s digital subscriber base to 8.8 million RGUs was led by strong performances in Belgium, Poland, Germany and Switzerland.

The loss of video subscribers in some markets that has affected Liberty Global in all quarters during 2012 continued in the third quarter, with 90,000 losses reported. That compares with losses of 59,000 a year earlier. Germany suffered from video losses of 26,000, compared with 7,000 a year earlier, due to a combination of video price increases for certain single dwelling units and the loss of a housing association contract during the quarter. Additional video losses were experienced in Poland due to increased competition in the market.

Overall RGU growth in the quarter was more positive, representing Liberty Global’s second best third quarter ever. Growth was led by Germany, Belgium, Hungary and Swiss operations, which between them accounted for around 80% of total additional.

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