Liberty Global: Netflix for All

Liberty Global and Netflix have inked a multi-year deal that will pave the way for the MSO to provide set-top-level access to the popular OTT service in systems serving more than 30 countries across Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Netherlands will be the first new Liberty Global territory to launch Netflix on the MSO’s “Horizon” box, as part of the partnership. Liberty Global expects to expand the rollout to other territories through 2017.  

Financial terms were not disclosed, but they said the deal “complements Liberty Global’s investment in content through acquisitions, partnerships and original commissions alongside the $2.5 billion spent each year on licensed content for its video platforms.”

And it’s another example of a cable operator moving ahead with a strategy that blends its traditional pay TV platform with access to OTT fare. The Liberty Global-Netflix deal is also entering play as the MSO pushes ahead with a next-gen video platform called EOS that will serve as a key cog in the MSO's next-gen video strategy. 

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Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, has long praised Netflix for exposing a gap in cable’s video strategy and teaching MSOs a valuable lesson on what customers want. For example, at the opening session at the 2014 Cable Show (now called INTX), Fries said Netflix has “exposed that we have a massive functionality gap.”

For Netflix, the Liberty Global deal should broaden its exposure to consumers because its service will be tightly integrated with their primary set-top box. The deal also comes almost ten months after Netflix launched service to more than 130 additional countries.

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And the blending of OTT, and Netflix for that matter, is not a foreign concept to Liberty Global. For example, Liberty Global-owned Virgin Media, the largest MSO in the U.K., has been integrating Netflix on TiVo-powered boxes since 2013. Meanwhile, Global’s Hungary-based cable operation has been working with ActiveVideo (now co-owned by Charter Communications and Arris) to bring YouTube and other apps to older, non-IP-capable boxes.

“We are committed to bringing the best content to our customers, and are thrilled to expand our partnership with Netflix. This deal will provide even more freedom to our subscribers – allowing them to access a goldmine of amazing TV and films at the click of a button, fully integrated into their usual TV viewing set-up,” Fries said in a statement.

“This partnership builds on our strong relationship with Virgin Media in the UK, allowing millions of our mutual customers around the world to easily access the broadest range of TV shows and movies without having to search for that other remote control,” added Netflix CEO Reed Hastings. “Combining the Netflix app - and all the great content it provides - into the familiar, easy-to-use cable box makes both more appealing.”