Speaking at the company’s annual Overseas Board Meeting in Dublin, where Liberty runs the Virgin Media cablenet and the soon to be rebranded TV3, Fries said: “I don’t believe there will be a hard Brexit, but Ireland has done a great job of diversifying its exports over the years. In many ways it could become a magnet for companies looking for an English-speaking launchpad into Europe. Of course, issues around the border could become complex and challenging but I still feel great about Ireland under any scenario. I still feel it will be a lot smoother than many anticipate.”
Within Ireland itself, Fries described the Irish regulatory regime as generally positive. “We quite like the regulatory environment here in Ireland”, he said. “The ability to integrate TV with distribution is very powerful. The mobile market is very stable and there are no access issues to speak of. On balance, we would favour deregulation over more regulation, however. For example, if Eir made the case they were over-regulated we would probably support them on that. Our experience in Europe over the past 10 to 15 years is that when you reduce regulation and unleash companies to compete against each other that’s when the magic happens.”
TV3 will take the Virgin Media TV brand on August 30. “Now is the right time to rebrand”, said Mr Fries. “We are doing it from a position of strength and all of the people in TV3 are hugely enthusiastic about it.”
Liberty bought the loss-making TV channel in 2015; it now turns a profit.
“The success of TV3 is due to the talented people in there as well as to the capital we have invested”, Mr Fries added. “The €10 to €15 million capital investment is small in comparison to the €1 billion we have invested in Ireland over the years but is still significant.”
Virgin is also launching a dedicated sports channel for the Irish market that will feature UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Six Nations Championship, international football matches, and live racing.