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Liberty Global CEO: RDK 'A DOCSIS Moment' For Cable

DENVER -- SCTE Cable-Tec Expo -- Liberty Global faces different competitive pressures in Europe and other parts of the world than some of its U.S. MSO peers, but the need to achieve scale across the board is critical for the entire cable industry, Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s president and CEO, said here during Wednesday’s opening general session.

The need for scale has “never been more important than right now, and will only become more important,” Fries said during a keynote discussion with Tony Werner, Comcast Cable’s executive vice president and chief technology officer, and the program chairman for this year’s show.

One area where Liberty Global and other MSOs can achieve scale is at the set-top box, and particularly around the Reference Design Kit (RDK), the preintegrated software stack for IP-capable devices that’s being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.

“The RDK is a DOCSIS moment, in our view,” Fries said, referencing the CableLabs-driven DOCSIS specs that has helped cable to achieve massive scale on the broadband end of the business. Liberty Global, by the way, is basing the next-generation of its Horizon video platform on the RDK.

“Horizon, for us, is a game-changer,” he said. On the set-top end, Liberty Global, Fries said, launched an “e-auction” on Wednesday that aims to produce devices that are cheaper and lighter than today’s products and to take advantage of the migration of services to the proverbial cloud.

Fries said scale is also key as cable faces off with “hyper-giants” like Google and Netflix, which is aggressively expanding its subscription video streaming services across many regions of Europe.

Fries also reiterated his stance that the rise of Netflix has prodded the cable industry to move faster and embrace over-the-top video services.

“Netflix taught us a great lesson,” Fries said, noting that cable already had the connectivity and the content. “All we were missing was the app…the user experience.”

To match up, Liberty Global has launched its own over-the-top subscription video service, called My Prime. “We might launch a YouTube channel,” Fries said.

Expanded coverage of Fries' keynote, including his sizing up of the competitive landscape and Liberty Global's wireless and mobile strategies, will be featured in Thursday's Multichannel News SCTE Cable-Tec Expo show daily. For more Expo news and announcements, please visit our show micro-site.