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Also: Google Fiber preps for Missouri rollouts; cable's Canoe paddles ahead on VoD ads; Super Bowl streaming usage was not so super

Liberty Global, Virgin on Divergent Video Paths

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Welcome to today's broadband and cable news roundup.

  • If Liberty Global Inc. makes a successful bid for Virgin Media Inc., John Malone & Co. might have to make some hard decisions on how to proceed with Liberty's overall next-generation video strategy. Liberty Global has invested heavily in Horizon TV, a hybrid QAM/IP platform that features Samsung Corp. gateways running the cloud-based NDS (now Cisco Systems Inc.) Snowflake user interface alongside an applications ecosystem. Liberty has already launched Horizon TV in the Netherlands and Switzerland, with Germany and Ireland expected to follow (Liberty said it sold more than 50,000 Horizon subscriptions by the end of the third quarter of 2012). Virgin Media, meanwhile, is basing its advanced video service on boxes powered by the TiVo Inc. platform/UI. (See Liberty, Virgin Media in Takeover Talks and Liberty Global Embarks on New TV Horizon.) Despite the difference in strategies, Liberty might be better served by leaving well enough alone at Virgin if it ends up absorbing the U.K. operator. Virgin's TiVo-based subs numbered 1.14 million at the end of the third quarter of 2012, representing 30 percent of the MSO's TV base and helping Virgin to increase its overall video sub base by 52,200 during the period (Virgin reports fourth-quarter numbers tomorrow). That sub increase bucks a worn-out trend occurring among U.S. cable MSOs as well as at Liberty Global, which continue to shed video subscribers.
  • Google Fiber is getting ready to extend services to more "fiberhoods" (areas with 250 to 1,500 homes and businesses) in the Kansas Cities this spring. Google Fiber has set its first deadlines on the Missouri side, urging people in eight fiberhoods there to get signed up for broadband and video services. Among them, Crown Center has until March 21 to sign up, while the Crossroads region has until April 25. Google Fiber has also set service sign-up deadlines for four more fiberhoods on the Kansas side, starting with a Feb. 14 cut-off (feel the love) for the Delaware Ridge area. (See Google Fiber Starts to Hook Up Customers.) Google Fiber has not released any subscriber figures. On last week's fourth-quarter earnings call, Time Warner Cable Inc. President and COO Rob Marcus estimated that Google Fiber's current overbuild plan will ultimately reach about 600,000 homes in the area, with about 300,000 in TW Cable's footprint.
  • Canoe Ventures LLC, the MSO-backed advanced advertising J.V., says it's in the process of gaining accreditation for its dynamic video-on-demand (VoD) ad insertion reporting service from the Media Rating Council (MRC), a group that sets standards for audience measurement for the media industry. Canoe changed course in February 2012, announcing that it would scuttle its interactive advertising business, lay off about 120 employees, move its headquarters from New York City to Centennial, Colo., and focus solely on dynamic VoD ad insertion. (See Cable's Canoe Sinks Interactive Ad Business.)
  • Although consumers had access to live streams of Sunday's Super Bowl, the big game provided broadband networks a break, as the masses opted to watch it on regular TV. Overall network usage dropped 15 percent during the game, with CBS's Super Bowl stream accounting for only 3 percent of total network traffic on Sunday night, reports Sandvine Inc., which last year began to label this phenomenon as the "The Super Dip." Sandvine's latest conclusion: traffic stats show that adoption of live streamed sports events is on the rise, "but for the time being it is no threat to replace viewing via traditional broadcast methods."
  • Harris Corp. has closed the sale of its broadcast communications business to an affiliate of The Gores Group LLC for $225 million, a price comprised of $160 million in cash, a $15 million subordinated promissory note and an earn-out of up to $50 million based on future performance. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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    Jeff Baumgartner
    Jeff Baumgartner,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    2/5/2013 | 4:00:47 PM
    re: Liberty Global, Virgin on Divergent Video Paths
    There's no actual deal in play yet, so we still don't know the particulars on how Liberty Global would try to finance such an agreement, but I still wonder if the good-the TiVo platform has brought Virgin Media so far would outweigh the operational help it would give Liberty if Liberty-tried to unify everything under Horizon TV... of course, Virgin Media's deal with TiVo might prevent that sort of thing from happening in the near-term anyway.

    Meanwhile ISI Group's analysts say the operational synergies of such a marriage is unclear, noting that Liberty has but modest oprerations in Ireland (452,000 video subscribers) and VMED only operates in the UK. However, VMED's main competitors, BSkyB, does operate in the UK and Ireland, they point out. JB
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