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Mike Fries, CEO of John Malone’s international cable operator Liberty Global, on Wednesday closed the 43rd annual UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York by talking about the company’s recent deal for a stake in Lionsgate and its broader content strategy.
Calling Lionsgate “one of the best” companies in Hollywood, Fries highlighted that the deal also came with a commercial licensing agreement for rights to some of studio’s TV series and movies, and gives him a chance to sit on the board of a key Hollywood player.
He said the Lionsgate deal fits well into Liberty Global’s broader content strategy, which has seen the company buy production companies, sports rights, free-to-air broadcast networks and spend money on OTT and SVOD offers.
“We are getting some value” and high returns for small investments, Fries said about the content strategy, calling it “very opportunistic.”
Liberty Global has also taken a small stake in U.K. broadcaster ITV and acquired U.K. production firm All3Media together with Discovery Communications, which also acquired a small stake in Lionsgate. So it was no surprise that Fries got a question about the companies’ relationship.
“Discovery is a great company, and David [Zaslav] is a great CEO,” he said. “He’s a great partner … and an important supplier.” While Malone owns big stakes in both companies and the two will “do some things together,” Fries said “there is no grander scheme here.”
Asked about Liberty Global’s failed deal talks this year with telecom giant Vodafone, the exec said: “We were never talking about a merger. We were talking about asset swaps.” But the companies couldn’t agree on valuations, Fries explained.
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