“I didn’t see that,” he joked at the Deutsche Bank Media, Telecom & Business Services Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, in a webcast appearance. “I think it is partially a tactical move. It gets them back in the game in the sense that they now have the ability to be at the table or somewhere at least on the field, if you will, in terms of the broader goal they had at one point around Fox.”
That was a reference to Comcast’s attempt to bid for 21st Century Fox before the entertainment conglomerate in December unveiled a $52.4 billion deal to sell a big part of its businesses to the Walt Disney Co. “There are some tactical benefits there. I get that,” Fries said. “I think it’s more about content quite frankly than it is about distribution. NBCUniversal is just not a factor in Europe. Don’t take it the wrong way. They are just not, [they are] a small supplier to us, really to everybody. So I think for them they see content synergies, which I get.”
He said he “liked” the offered price tag for “a pay TV asset,” because that “certainly validates a lot of what we think about where we are trading.” Fries reiterated during his appearance that it has been “very frustrating” to see Liberty Global’s stock price linger.
Asked about reports of renewed talks about a potential sale of some assets to telecom giant Vodafone, Fries acknowledged them and highlighted: “In Europe, we have a pretty good M&A track record, both as a buyer and as a seller.”
Asked about Liberty Global’s thinking about licensing content or buying exclusive programming, Fries said: “Our content strategy hasn’t really changed. … We want to be the content platform everybody loves. … We’re mostly a meta aggregator.” But in “a very targeted” and regionally focused “inexpensive” way, the company has also pushed into regional sports in select markets, such as Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland.
“People who love television just love television,” Fries also said amid his discussion of Liberty Global’s integration of Netflix’s services. “We are finding that Netflix is a great added product for us, and there will be more of those type of things.”