Virgin Media deal drives Liberty Global subscriber numbers

Mike_FriesLiberty Global reported a next-generation video user base of 2.5 million, after a “watershed year” that saw it buy Virgin Media, agree to acquire Ziggo and sell its Chellomedia content arm.

Announcing its fourth quarter and full year results, Liberty said that as of December 31 its “next-generation video” customers consisted of two million Virgin TiVo subscribers in the UK and 500,000 Horizon TV subscribers in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland and Germany.

In total, these customers accounted for roughly 19% of Liberty’s digital TV base as of the first week of February 2014.

During 2013, Liberty said that it lost 294,000 video subscribers, including 50,000 in the fourth quarter. However, it claimed that this was an improvement compared to attrition rates in recent years.

At the end of 2013, Liberty claimed to have 13.2 million digital video subscribers, equating to 63% digital penetration. Total video customers were 21.8 million. By comparison, Liberty claimed to have a total unique customer base of 24.5 million people, who took a total of 48.3 million subscription services – including 14.4 million broadband internet and 12.1 million telephony subscriptions.

“2013 was a watershed year for Liberty Global. With the acquisition of Virgin Media, we significantly enhanced our scale which now encompasses 47 million homes passed and over 24 million unique customers,” said Liberty CEO Mike Fries (pictured).

“In January, we completed the Chellomedia sale for approximately US$1 billion in net proceeds, and we also reached an agreement to purchase Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the Netherlands. The Ziggo acquisition will create a nationwide footprint in one of our core markets and enable us to provide Dutch consumers with even better broadband, video and voices services. At the same time, we will be the leading challenger in mobile and B2B.”

Overall, the firm delivered its third consecutive year of more than one million organic subscriber additions, with 1.3 million net new revenue generating units in 2013, including 413,000 in Q4 – Liberty’s strongest quarter of the year.

Reported consolidated revenue increased by 71% year-on-year to US$4.5 billion and 46% to US$14.5 billion for the three months and year ended December 31, 2013, respectively. This was primarily driven by the inclusion of Virgin Media for approximately seven months.

Operating income increased by 1% for each of the three-month and full-year periods ended December 31, to US$518 million and US$2 billion, though quarterly and full year losses were US$121 million and $964 million respectively.

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