Liberty Global's Fries: 'Netflix taught all of us a great lesson'

DENVER--Fresh off the launch of Liberty Global's own SVOD service in Switzerland, MyPrime, company president and CEO Mike Fries paid tribute to the competitor he says has taught cable operators everywhere "a great lesson."

"Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) showed us that all we were missing is the app. We have the content and the user relationships. All we had to do was provide customers the ability to consume and enjoy our services on multiple devices in an enjoyable way," said Fries, speaking in a Wednesday-morning one-one-one interview session alongside colleague Tony Werner, executive VP and CTO of Comcast, at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo here.

Available for the equivalent of about $6.50 a month, or provided free to subscribers of Liberty-owned UPC Cablecom, Fries believes the MyPrime service is more than capable of holding off Netflix's strong ongoing European expansion.

"Give customers the experience they want and they won't go anywhere," Fries told the audience made up primarily of cable-industry engineers.

In the wide-ranging discussion, Fries also painted an interesting comparison and contrast between Liberty Global, Europe's dominant cable company, and cable operators in the United States:

> The average revenue per user (ARPU) for Liberty Global's 25 million subscribers is only around $50, compared to around $125 for U.S. operators. "But our ARPUs are growing every year," Fries noted. "We have 60 percent [market] penetration and some nice inherent growth ahead of us."

> Even though Liberty Global serves 3 million mobile users, Fries identified Wi-Fi as a "huge development initiative," adding, "We want to follow our customers and give them another reason to connect to our services." Liberty Global currently has around 2.5 million hotspots spread across Europe and is quickly adding more.

 > While Fries believes that Europe provides cable operators with a more friendly regulatory environment than the U.S., he says the region is more susceptible to volatility. "We have Scotland just wanting to leave [the EU]. That's 5 percent of our business."

Related links:
Liberty Global CEO: Netflix has 'no shot'
Netflix in talks with Belgian operators for new distribution deal
Comcast, Liberty Global agree to international Wi-Fi roaming