& cplSiteName &

Liberty Global Ramps Up Sub Growth

Alan Breznick
8/8/2016
50%
50%

Shrugging off concerns about Brexit and its heavy debt load, Liberty Global is adding more broadband subscribers and cutting its video customer losses as it expands its European reach, boosts data speeds and rolls out more advanced video products.

In its second-quarter earnings release late last week, Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) reported adding 277,000 overall customers excluding acquisitions in the spring period, up 80% from its Q1 results and just about double the amount it added in the year-earlier period. Most of that gain came in Europe, where it picked up 231,000 customers through such "organic" growth.

Liberty Global also reported that it activated or upgraded more than 500,000 additional homes in the second quarter as its Project Lightning initiative in the UK continues to ramp up. Under that ambitious capital upgrade program, the big international MSO aims to activate or upgrade a total of 1.5 million British households this year and 7 million by the end of 2018.

Not surprisingly, then, Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) is leading the way for Liberty Global right now. As we reported on Friday, Virgin gained 56,000 overall customers in the second quarter, including 24,000 video subs, and connected 31,000 new homes, racking up its best spring results in eight years. (See Eurobites: Virgin Adds 24K Customers in Q2.)

"While Project Lightening is in full swing, I just want to point out that half of those customers came from our legacy footprint," Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries noted on the earnings call Friday, according to a transcript supplied by Seeking Alpha. "So, really, the best is yet to come from our new-build program."

Like most cable operators, Liberty Global continues to perform best in the broadband space. For example, in Europe, by far its biggest area, the company netted 160,300 data subscribers from organic growth, up 45% from a year ago. Those improved results were largely driven by big sub increases in the UK and the Netherlands, where the company just gained EU approval of its merger with Vodafone Netherlands . As a result, the MSO now boasts more than 17 million broadband subscribers across a dozen European nations, including 4.8 million in the UK and 3.1 million in the Netherlands. (See Eurobites: Nokia Plans More Cost Savings.)


The rollout of Gigabit broadband access networks is spreading. Find out what's happening where in our dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel here on Light Reading.


With a strong focus on broadband growth, Liberty Global is now boosting its max speeds across its territories as it prepares for the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1, which will easily enable download speeds of 1 Gbit/s or greater. Using the older DOCSIS 3.0 standard, the MSO is now offering speeds as high as 500 Mbit/s in some markets, much faster than telco DSL speeds although still not as fast as fiber-enabled data rates.

In contrast with broadband, video remains a much tougher market, due to stiffer telco and satellite TV competition and continued consumer cord-cutting. But, in a victory of sorts, Liberty Global did manage to cut its video sub losses in the second quarter. Taking Europe as an example again, the MSO shed 72,000 basic video customers, an improvement over the 111,000 it shed a year ago, as nine out of its 12 markets reported better results.

Perhaps more notably, Liberty Global expanded its next-gen video subscriber base in the quarter, adding 304,000 TiVo, Horizon TV and Yelo TV subscribers to boost its grand total to more than 7 million. In particular, Virgin Media continued to score with its TiVo product, adding 66,000 subscribers to scale the 3 million mark. Thanks to these gains, an impressive 82% of Virgin's video customer base now subscribes to the TiVo service.

The company is counting on further next-gen video gains later this year as it keeps rolling out its TV Everywhere service, Liberty Go, and starts to deploy its new universal Eos set-top box across Europe. That new set-top will enable the MSO to offer 4K/UHD service.

In a regulatory filing late last week, Liberty Global warned that the UK's recent vote to leave the European Union could hurt its business. But, on the earnings call with analysts, Fries mostly shrugged off those concerns.

"While we favor stability and regulatory certainty, we're not actually that worried at all about the future here," Fries said. "We've seen no slowdown in our sales levels in the UK. Consumers are the ones that matter. Actually we're up year-over-year."

Nevertheless, Liberty Global, which is now weighed down with more than $50 billion in debt from its continuing acquisition spree, lowered its financial guidance for operating cash flow and other key metrics in Europe for the rest of the year. However, the company kept its longer-term targets intact. "We have always indicated that the first half of 2016 was really an investment period where we'd be laying groundwork for next year and 2018," Fries said.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
msilbey
50%
50%
msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
8/8/2016 | 1:52:08 PM
Broadband sub counts
Amaazing to see that such a large European operator, covering multiple countries, still trails behind the big US providers. Comcast has close to 24 million broadband subs and Charter has about 19.5 million compared to Liberty Global's 17 million.
From The Founder
The time has come for a telecom app store to save the industry.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
Service Provider Panel: Partnering in the Digital Era

5|22|17   |     |   (0) comments


Coopetition has always been part of telecom, but the ecosphere now includes data centers, vendors, apps developers, cloud service providers and Internet content providers. This BCE 2017 panel explores the new attitudes among network operators as to the value and variety of ...
LRTV Interviews
Site Demo: AT&T's IoT Flow Platform

5|19|17   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


At AT&T's R&D center in Tel Aviv, Israel, project leader Eyal Segev talks about the operator's Flow platform and how it helps to prototype IoT applications.
LRTV Documentaries
Agent of Change: A Q&A With AT&T's John Donovan

5|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


Carol Wilson talks with the man leading AT&T's transformation efforts about the challenge of change.
LRTV Documentaries
BCE Service Provider Panel: The New Business Realities

5|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


For virtualization to happen, the telecom industry first has to grapple with key functional aspects of SDN and NFV that need to be universal, such as onboarding of virtualized network functions and federation of software-defined networks.
LRTV Interviews
BCE Service Provider Keynote: CenturyLink

5|16|17   |   22:32   |   (0) comments


Aamir Hussain leads the Product Development and Technology organization at CenturyLink, which includes the company's information technology function. He is an experienced senior technology executive with more than 25 years of proven success in the implementation of global technology operations, operationalization of complex technology, infrastructures and business ...
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink CTO on Transformation

5|16|17   |   7:43   |   (0) comments


The 50-year-old telco has already gone through several transformations, including every time it made an acquisition, but its purchase of Level 3 coupled with changes in technology and customer expectations necessitates its biggest transformation yet.
LRTV Documentaries
Light Reading Hall of Fame 2017

5|15|17   |   5:05   |   (1) comment


Find out who made it into Light Reading's Hall of Fame this year.
LRTV Interviews
Site Visit: AT&T's Tel Aviv R&D Center

5|15|17   |   09:58   |   (1) comment


Nir Shalom, general manager and VP of application development at AT&T Israel, talks about the key service developments undertaken at the AT&T R&D facility in Tel Aviv and how the team there has adopted new ways of working.
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
Act on Your Intelligence With Amdocs aia!

5|15|17   |     |   (0) comments


Amdocs CMO Gary Miles explains how communications service providers can seize the AI opportunity with Amdocs real-time digital intelligence platform.
LRTV Interviews
Logtel CEO: Making Sense of IoT

5|15|17   |   09:48   |   (0) comments


Jacques Bensimon, founder and CEO of Tel Aviv-based training and consultancy Logtel, talks about the need to make IoT more than just a buzzword.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Challenges of Mobile Banking Implementation

5|12|17   |     |   (0) comments


Kamal Quadir of bKash Limited explains the challenges and needs of implementing mobile banking in the Bangladesh market.
LRTV Interviews
Tel Aviv: A Hub of Innovation

5|10|17   |   07:58   |   (0) comments


Light Reading's Ray Le Maistre and Dan Allen discuss the technology innovation, food and amazing sights they witnessed during a recent trip to Israel.
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
BSS Is BS, Says KPN Tech Boss
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/16/2017
AT&T's Donovan: Women Adapt Faster Than Men
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 5/18/2017
Verizon on M&A: Who Needs a Cableco?
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/17/2017
Standardization Needs Room for Innovation
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 5/17/2017
Fright Wigs & Cocktails: BCE 2017 in Pics
Mitch Wagner, Editor, Enterprise Cloud, 5/19/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
One of the nice bits of my job (other than the teeny tiny salary, obviously) is that I get to pick and choose who I interview for this slot on the Light Reading home ...
TEOCO Founder and CEO Atul Jain talks to Light Reading Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about the challenges around cost control and service monetization in the mobile and IoT sectors.
Animals with Phones
What Brogrammers Look Like to the Rest of Us Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.