Horizon success helps offset Virgin Media deal costs for Liberty Global

Liberty Global’s hybrid Horizon platform launched at IBC 2012 looks set to net 300,000 new customers in its first year and help in the operator’s bid to overtake Comcast as the world’s biggest cable company. Liberty Global revealed that Horizon so far has 270,000 customers, while announcing that costs associated with its $23.3 billion cash plus stock takeover of UK cable operator Virgin Media has helped pull the group into the red by $11.6 million for its second quarter, compared with a profit of $702 million for the same period of 2012.

Meanwhile, the company has continued to gain subscribers overall as well as revenue, which was up at $3.16 billion for the quarter, a rise of 6 percent, excluding acquisitions.Virgin Media itself said its second-quarter revenue was little changed at £1.03 billion ($1.56 billion).

Liberty Global has been expanding aggressively in recent years, acquiring two German cable operators Unity Media and Kabel BW to become a major force there with 6.7 million TV subscribers, while raising its stake in Dutch operator Ziggo to 28 percent and Belgian Telenet to 58 percent. At the same time Liberty Global is building its multiscreen strategy around Horizon, which is currently available in Switzerland as well as the Netherlands and will soon be launched in both Ireland and Germany.

Virgin Media has been pursuing a similar strategy around its TiVo platform launched in December 2010, which had 1.7 million subscribers by the second quarter of 2013, almost half the total 3.7 million pay-TV base. The Virgin Media acquisition has taken Liberty Global close to Comcast, which was previously by some distance the world’s biggest MSO. With Comcast’s subs total still slowly declining, Liberty Global is now number one by pay-TV subs on some counts. However, Comcast is still ahead when measured by total reported Revenue Generating Units (RGUs), at 52.09 million against Liberty Global’s 47.53 million. A triple-play household would count as three RGUs, even though the services are increasingly bundled into a single bill.