Ireland well positioned to prosper following Brexit - Liberty Global Chief

Ireland will do well under any Brexit outcome according to Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global.

Attending the company’s annual Overseas Board Meeting which is taking place in Dublin, Mr. 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.

Liberty Global’s Irish operations include Virgin Media Ireland and TV3 which will be rebranded as Virgin Media TV 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.”

Since being acquired by Liberty Global in 2015, TV3 has moved from a loss-making position to one where it is now strongly profitable.

“We now have a 20% share of the market and our target is to continue growing that share”, said Virgin Media Ireland managing director Tony Hanway.

We are already Ireland’s number two TV broadcaster and enjoy the number one position quite frequently. We are also the clear number one when it comes to commercial impacts – the share of the available advertising market – where we are in the high thirties.

“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.”

The new Virgin Media Sports channel will offer a strong line-up of UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Six Nations Championship, international football matches, and live racing.

“It’s all about making the experience better for our customers”, said Mr Fries.

“We have experience with sports channels in Holland, Belgium and Switzerland and they have been very successful for us. The bedrock of the sports channel will be the 320 UEFA matches we’ll show each year and we’re looking forward to bringing those to our existing subscribers at no extra charge.”

Looking to the future, Mr Fries said that Liberty Global is primarily in the connectivity business.

“We are a meta-aggregator of content. We will provide people will great content both from our own channels and other linear channels, video services, and from other providers like Netflix. Our customers will pay for the content once and be able to access it on any device anywhere.

"Consumers don’t want to work hard to access the content they and we will make it easier for them to do that. We will shortly introduce a new set-top box which will look as good as anything you get from Apple or others and its functionality will enhance the viewers’ experience still further.”

Mr Fries concluded by saying that the Irish regulatory regime is 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.

Liberty Global is the world’s largest international TV and broadband company, with operations in 11 European countries under the consumer brands Virgin Media, Unitymedia, Telenet and UPC.

The company invests in the infrastructure and digital platforms that empower customers to make the most of the video, internet and communications revolution.

- Digital Desk


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