Fries: Liberty Global may expand Netflix on TV beyond UK

By Steve Donohue, for [itvt]

Los Angeles – The Cable Show – Liberty Global is looking at launching Netflix TV apps in additional markets, and may also develop its own over-the-top video service, CEO Michael Fries said here Tuesday.

Top British cable operator Virgin Media, which is controlled by Liberty, launched a Netflix app on TiVo DVRs in 2013 that allows subscribers to stream TV shows and movies on HDTVs.

“If you want to watch Netflix, fine – you don’t have to leave our environment. We may do that in other markets,” Fries said during the opening general session at the largest U.S. cable convention. “We might launch our own OTT services,” added Fries, whose company controls cable systems in Europe, Puerto Rico and Chile that count about 25 million subscribers combined. 

The Cable Show opener included (l. to r.) A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc, Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent, TWC CEO Rob Marcus, Turner CEO John Martin.

Last week, Netflix announced deals with Atlantic Broadband, RCN and Grande Communications that will make the mid-sized multichannel providers the first U.S. distributors to offer access to Netflix through set-tops that are leased to subscribers. The MSOs will use TiVo DVRs to stream Netflix content. Netflix apps are also available on connected TVs, streaming video set-tops and gaming consoles that are purchased in retail outlets.

The impact that Netflix has had on both pay TV programmers and distributors was a topic of debate at The Cable Show opening general session.

A+E Networks CEO Nancy Dubuc noted that Netflix doesn’t release viewing data for House of Cards and other original series that it has developed. “We’d all like to be in a business where we don’t have to report our numbers,” Dubuc said.

Netflix grew its subscription video-on-demand business at a time when most cable operators didn’t have the infrastructure to offer thousands of hours of on-demand content through cable VOD platforms. But Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus said Netflix’s strategy of “aggregating and reselling other people’s content over the cable infrastructure is in no way in my opinion a failure of the cable industry."

TV Everywhere authentication was another hot topic at the opening session. Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin, whose company was one of the first cable programmers to launch TV Everywhere Web sites and mobile video applications, said the industry needs to improve TVE authentication.

Cable subscribers shouldn’t need to memorize login information, Martin suggested. “I have three homes with three different cable providers, and I don’t know any of them [TVE logins],” Martin added.