Liberty Global CEO: No Plans for Big Content Acquisitions

Mike Fries - H 2015

Mike Fries - H 2015

Despite a recent deal for a stake in Lionsgate, CEO Mike Fries said John Malone's cable giant has yet to bet heavily on content.

Despite his company's recent deal for a stake in Lionsgate, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries on Wednesday said John Malone's international cable giant is in no hurry to make big plays for content companies.

"It's not like we're betting on content. We're making tactical smart moves. Let's see how it unfolds," Fries said as he closed the Citi Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference in Las Vegas. He said other recent deals with partner Discovery Communications that include stakes in ITV, UK producer All3Media and Formula E represent cautious bids to better understand the global content business.

"We're opportunistic. If you look at the content investments we've made — ITV, Lionsgate, All3 Media, buying free-to-air broadcast networks — they all make quite a bit of sense," Fries argued. For example, All3Media is making a reality TV show based on the Formula E series.

"It's one of the largest production companies in Europe. People want to talk to us now," Fries said of All3Media, Britain's indie TV giant best known for shows like Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, Undercover Boss, Skins and The White Queen.

Having taken a seat in the Lionsgate boardroom, Fries said Liberty Global also has a long term commercial deal with the indie studio, and secured rights to movies and SVOD content. He added Liberty Global has invested around $500 million in content companies so far.

"It hasn't cost us much, but puts us in a position to understand better and plan out more effectively our next moves in content, which we have to be thoughtful about," Fries told investment analysts in Vegas.

Liberty Global could yet oversee some big content acquisitions in John Malone's investment orbit, however. Analysts have ventured Lionsgate is moving towards a possible merger with Starz premium cable channels after Liberty Global and Discovery each paid $195 million for separate 3.4 percent stakes in the indie studio.