Liberty ponders where it may go

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Liberty Media could consider buying film libraries down the line to further boost its content business, CEO Greg Maffei said Monday.

Asked about Liberty's interest in content creation at the UBS Global Media & Communications Conference, Maffei said it is an area "we're inherently attracted to."

However, Overture Films, part of Liberty's Starz unit, will continue to proceed with "baby steps" for now, with about 10 releases a year.

Asked about film output deals that Starz has with Hollywood studios such as Sony and Disney, Maffei said power in these deals has shifted back to pay TV services, which have increasingly bought movies a la carte rather than in broad output arrangements.

Overall, the Liberty CEO reaffirmed his belief in the value of being invested in both content and distribution. "Content and distribution help each other," he said.

Maffei also provided updates on pending and possible deals, including the swap with News Corp. — which will give Liberty a controlling stake in satellite TV giant DirecTV — and a possible transaction with Barry Diller's IAC.

"I think we're all disappointed it's not completed yet," he said about the DirecTV deal, which has been held up in regulatory review.

He also said that Liberty believes that DirecTV has seen the end of subscriber losses that are driven by cable operators' triple-play service bundle. He noted Liberty could reduce its stake if the right offer comes along or increase it if the performance is right, Maffei said.

In a jab against Diller, he said the company's Liberty Interactive arm would be interested in buying home shopping channel HSN at the right price: "Maybe we will let the public price it (in the planned five-way split of IAC) and do it at a time of our choosing, not when Barry wants us to buy it at a premium," he said.

He also signaled that Liberty could buy Ticketmaster, another IAC property, at the right price.

Maffei said Liberty is waiting for a proposal from Diller about which of the five companies he plans to run or be involved with and where he sees Liberty invested in the future.

The split should unlock value, but Liberty, as a stakeholder, will preserve its leverage as it must agree to any split and therefore wait for more details about Diller's vision, Maffei said.
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