Virgin Media CEO Talks Netflix Integration, Irish TV Acquisitions

Tom Mockridge

Mockridge is a former CEO of Sky Italia who helped News Corp. navigate the fallout after the phone-hacking scandal broke. He replacedRebekah Brooks, the News of the World editor who resigned in July.

Tom Mockridge spoke at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference about the U.K. cable giant that is part of John Malone's Liberty Global.

U.K. cable giant Virgin Media, part of John Malone's international cable giant Liberty Global, has seen encouraging results from integrating Netflix for cable subscribers, Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge told an investor conference in New York on Wednesday.

Speaking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, the exec said his company has concluded that Netflix and its service were "complementary more than a competitor." He also said that subscribers with Netflix integrated into their cable service via TiVo have been showing lower churn rates.

Netflix and Virgin Media in 2013 reached the streaming video giant's first integration deal into a pay TV offering. Liberty Global earlier this year also unveiled a multiyear partnership with Netflix to integrate the latter's service and make its content available to Liberty Global pay TV subscribers in more than 30 countries worldwide based on the success of the Virgin Media arrangement.

Mockridge on Wednesday also was asked about two TV broadcast acquisitions in Ireland, Virgin Media's 2015 deal for TV3 and this year's deal for UTV Ireland. "It was an opportunistic purchase," he said. Between the two businesses, "we have acquired for less than €100 million assets" for which the previous shareholders had paid much more, he explained.

Asked about his team's content strategy in Britain, Mockridge told the UBS crowd: "Across the United Kingdom, we're in position, we're buying content from Sky, BT, the terrestrial channels" and the like.

He also was questioned about Liberty Global's 9.9 percent stake in ITV and its joint acquisition of U.K. TV production powerhouse All3Media with Discovery Communications. "I won't say anything about ITV," Mockridge said. "It's a publicly listed company." But he highlighted that All3Media is developing "first-run on-demand programming" for the company, giving it "cost-effective" exclusive content.

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries recently told The Hollywood Reporter that his team isn't planning to acquire a major content company despite a much-debated recent mega-deal, saying the company's content investments are done market-by-market, case-by-case. And he said: "In many ways, the Time Warner-AT&T deal validates our strategy, which is cross-platform, fixed and mobile and smart vertical integration."

Virgin Media recently generated 92,000 revenue-generating units additions in the third quarter, its best third-quarter result in seven years. As of Sept. 30, Liberty Global provided 54 million subscription services to 26 million unique customers in Europe. These services consisted of 22.5 million video, 17.3 million broadband and 4.4 million telephony subscriptions.