Skip to main content

Liberty Livewire Unit Ascends

The name and the game are changing for Liberty Media Corp.'s Liberty Livewire subsidiary.

Livewire — a collection of acquired production and operations infrastructure ventures that's on track to collectively reap about $550 million in revenues this year — becomes Ascent Media Group today (Nov. 18). The NASDAQ ticker symbol for its Class A shares changes from LWIRA to AMGIA.

Its ventures, including satellite transmission provider Group W Network Services and audio-services vendor Todd-AO, serve more than 6,000 companies in the media and entertainment fields. The companies employ about 3,700 people.

From this point on, Ascent CEO Bill Fitzgerald promised, they'll be banded together by more than just a new brand name.

"Our effort is to represent this company as an end-to-end solution provider for strategic outsourcing," he said in an interview. "Heretofore, the businesses were represented as standalones, providing great technical platforms, terrific talent and service. What we're looking to message in the marketplace is something unique in integrated capabilities."

According to executive vice president of strategic development Rich Fickle, Ascent will unify its various divisions to work for media ventures through video-on-demand, interactive-TV and home-networking applications.

Fickle, who like Fitzgerald is a former AT&T Broadband executive, wants to fuse Ascent units together more cohesively, so cable operators can deploy VOD at a lower price and with the ability to offer more content.

"The industry's food chain there is still nascent, because integrating various processes to aggregate content and execute digital rights management is a nightmare," said Fickle. "It soaks up a lot of time for both operators and content providers. We're trying to figure out ways to streamline."

Ascent is already working with Liberty Broadband Interactive Television — Liberty's new broadband and ITV enterprise, incorporating OpenTV Inc., Wink Communications Inc. and ACTV Inc. — on various matters. The relationship is not exclusive, so Fickle can pursue more ITV clients, as well as VOD and home networking avenues.

Fickle is particularly keen on personal video recorder technology.

"One PVR issue that needs to be addressed is how it will change the face of advertising," he said. "Another is using the storage capability in PVRs to create new non-linear programming services."