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Liberty boss calls for ‘scale’

Mike_FriesLiberty Global CEO Mike Fries has called for “scale in the cable industry” in order for cable firms to compete with digital giants like Google and Netflix.

Speaking in a video interview with CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Fries said he believed major deals like the planned mergers between Comcast Communications and Time Warner Cable and between AT&T and DirecTV in the US are “good for the industry”.

“In the cable industry, we’re competing with Google and Netflix, these hyper giants that have global scale, and we are Balkanised in certain cities and certain markets. It’s silly,” said Fries.

“We talk about a digital single market, but how about a single European market, or a single US market or a single German market? We need scale in the cable industry and I think that that transaction makes a lot of sense.”

On the topic of net neutrality, the Liberty Global boss said that he thought that “the idea that certain applications and certain services shouldn’t have some kind of priority is kind of silly”.

“At Davos we’ve been talking about driverless cars and all these great applications – digitising industry. That’s going to be hard to do on a best efforts internet where everybody’s competing for bandwidth,” he said.

However, referencing an ongoing debate with Netflix about the topic of net neutrality, Fries added: “For Reed [Hastings, Netflix CEO] there’s a B2C and a B2B component to net neutrality. No internet service provider is ever going to block sites or degrade services or prevent consumers from doing what they want. He’s really talking about IP connectivity in the peering level and he’s looking for a certain outcome there that may or may not be right – we’ll see.”

Speaking on a joint panel at the CTAM EuroSummit in Copenhagen last September, Hastings and Fries clashed over the topic of net neutrality, arguing over who should meet the costs and what regulation is required for video internet traffic.

Liberty Global boss Mike Fries questioned whether web content companies should help foot the bill of delivering web video, while Netflix chief Reed Hastings said it would only do so if the likes of Liberty Global helped pay its content costs.