Mike Fries, the chief executive of billionaire John Malone’s cable giant Liberty Global, has argued that Netflix has become “far more friend than foe” in recent years.
In an interview with the BBC Radio 4 Media Show, Fries said Netflix’s role as a TV industry disruptor has waned as traditional broadcasters began to make content available across different platforms.
“Their secret sauce was this interface that allowed you to watch television, mobile, [and] iPad. That’s no longer unique,” Fries said.
“Most video providers today offer you the ability to watch television on any device. So increasingly what’s becoming unique about them [Netflix] is their content itself. Over time, a programme supplier might be a better way to describe them.”
He added that in the UK, where Liberty Global owns broadband and pay-TV company Virgin Media, Netflix and Liberty Global are interdependent.
“Consumers who love Netflix love broadband data, they need broadband data speeds to be terrific to get that experience,” he explained.
Liberty Global ‘reserves right’ to look at ITV takeover
Fries was less forthcoming about rumours that Liberty Global will look to acquire ITV after it took a 9.9% stake in the UK commercial broadcaster last year.
Asked if the company has plans to launch a takeover, he said: “Today we’re not really thinking about it in that way, but we always reserve the right, at some point down the road, to look at it differently.”
He admitted that the ITV stake was originally “opportunistic,” but the two companies have now developed a “strategic” relationship.
“We’re now cooperating very well with ITV on a number of fronts, including events advertising, some SVoD [subscription video on demand] platforms, channel development and our teams work very closely together,” he said.
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