Liberty Media chairman John Malone expressed skepticism that HBO’s proposed standalone over-the-top service, slated to bow in 2015, would cause a huge shift in industry dynamics.
“I don’t think it will be massively disruptive,” Malone said on the company’s third-quarter 2014 earnings call. “I suspect they’re worried about Netflix reaching scale on a global basis and their ability to outbid Netflix on a global basis… But I don’t think you’ll see a flood of new customers signing up for HBO. They may get some.”
As for the extent to which OTT services more generally will disrupt the cable TV business, Malone said, “The good thing is, you need a high-speed connection to participate in any of this.”
Greg Maffei, Liberty Media’s president and CEO, echoed Malone’s remarks, saying that the revenue HBO might generate from an unbundled OTT offering “may be less attractive” than what the premium cabler is getting from pay-TV providers today.
Liberty Media has an interest in maintaining the pay-TV status quo. The company said it expected to complete the previously announced spinoff of Liberty Broadband — largely comprising its interest in cable operator Charter Communications — on Tuesday as a separate entity. Liberty Broadband also includes a 1% interest in Time Warner Cable (which is being acquired by Comcast) as well as subsidiary TruePosition, a provider of location-based solutions for public safety and national security markets.
Under a pact between Comcast and Charter, Comcast will divest nearly 3 million subscribers that it would obtain with the TW Cable acquisition. Those would become part of a stand-alone cable company called GreatLand Connections, initially 67% owned by Comcast and 33% owned by Charter, to be headed by cable vet Michael Willner.
Maffei, asked if Liberty Media via Charter would seek to acquire cable systems going forward, said that “you could certainly see us doing that” once regulatory restrictions roll off. “We’ve made our bets with Charter,” he said, adding that he expects the MSO to be “the most efficient acquirer” of smaller MSOs in the future.
Over all for the third quarter, Liberty Media’s revenue increased 6.7%, to $1.2 billion in the third quarter of 2014. Operating income increased $1 million to $249 million. The increases in revenue and operating income were primarily due to operating results at SiriusXM, the company said.