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Liberty Global to up the ante on content, could offer OTT services

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, May 17, 2016

TV and telecoms giant Liberty Global could offer OTT services in the future, leveraging the combined strengths of its TV and telecoms services in Europe and Latin America following the US$7.4bn acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), Liberty's CEO Mike Fries said.

Speaking with journalists on Monday following the announcement that the acquisition had been completed, Fries told BNamericas that the company sees a "terrific" opportunity to embrace OTT-type services and even create its own content like Netflix.

Liberty currently has a streaming service called My Prime in Europe, which is designed to counter the likes of Netflix. The company spends some US$2.5bn on content every year and said that bringing better content to consumers would be a top priority.

"We want to ensure that the user experience is as good or better [than that of OTTs] and that we can provide that content on multiple devices," Fries said.

"An OTT offering could become an interesting source of content. But we want to be sure we're ready to launch OTT before doing so," he added.

The executive said that Liberty will launch a cloud-based 4K TV experience this year and will continue to experiment with different TV experiences.

"We think we can bring a lot of added value to Flow TV [in the Caribbean]. We want all content to be interactive on the mobile phone, on TV, etc. We'll bring a lot of innovative ideas," Fries said.

NEW COMPANY

On combining Liberty Global's LiLAC group, which consists of Choice Puerto Rico and VTR Chile and CWC's operations across the Caribbean, Central America and Colombia, the new regional operation will have 10mn video, voice, broadband and mobile subscribers in more than 20 countries.

Liberty is also inheriting a B2B and submarine network business that CWC had acquired from Columbus Communications.

The businesses are expected to generate a combined US$3.5bn in annual revenues.

CWC's outgoing CEO Phil Bentley will be replaced by interim CEO John Reid, who will work with Fries to evaluate how best to restructure the new company.

BROADBAND OPPORTUNITY

Asked about the current economic uncertainty in many Latin American markets, Fries underscored that the company is investing for the long term and that there are many untapped opportunities in the region, particularly in broadband.

Without giving a specific investment figure, Fries executive said that the company tends to reinvest 20-25% of its revenues in its network and said that the company was aiming to provide average speeds of 100Mbps in Latin America in the foreseeable future, as it does in its European operations.

"As a whole we see huge demand for broadband data and great growth potential. Broadband is growing at 50-100% per year. No other industry has that growth potential," Fries said.

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