“Conversations with private – and public – broadcasters in Germany are ongoing; we have good dialogue with RTL and with ProSieben,” said Liberty Global’s Mike Fries during last Friday’s investor call.
In Germany, the main public broadcasters ARD and ZDF have stopped paying cable operators carriage fees for distributing their channel over their nets. “Public broadcasters are taking something like 8 billion euros out of the consumers’ pocket a year have a somewhat irrational approach to those discussions,” he said.
Fries is more positive about the attitude of the private broadcasters, who could follow the example of the public channels and stop paying the cablers. “These are broadcasters that see the long-term benefits of a collaborative approach. Cable operators in Germany provide access to half the eyeballs and as such offer a terrific platform for delivering advanced digital services.”
Liberty Global’s Belgian asset, the Telenet network in Flanders, might become see the effects of an ‘open cable’ ruling in the country. This would force Telenet to open up its network to third-party resellers.
“Politcinas are arguing that Telenet has a substantial position in broadband – it is true, Telenet has a significant market share in Flanders, but not in all of Belgium. It is unclear of any of the operators will take advantage of this. I don’t think anything will happen before mid-2014.”
In the Netherlands, Liberty Global now owns 28.5% of Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the country. A full take-over is not (yet?) ion the cards, “We continue to believe this is a great strategic opportunity to cooperate on the Dutch market.”
Should the share raise about a 30% threshold, Liberty Global is required by law to make an offer for the remainder of the shares. “Up to 30% we are fine, but after 30% there is a mandatory offer requirement.”
“This latest addition was really a hedging structure on our existing stake. As part of that structure we were able to secure ownership beyond where we sat. Our average costs was below of what the stock was trading.”