Virgin Media is now the only cable TV operator in the UK, and the #2 in broadband and pay TV behind BT and Sky respectively. It was formed by the relaunch of the old NTL cable business following its acquisition of Virgin Mobile in the UK in 2006. It uses the Virgin brand under license, and has adopted the Virgin corporate stance, but by the end of 2012 Richard Branson's Virgin Group had only a small shareholding in the business of around 3%. The company also owned a small collection of cable channels for several years, including Living, Bravo and a 50% interest in the UKTV channel portfolio comprising Eden, Good Food, Dave and others. The wholly owned channels were sold to Sky in 2010; the UKTV stake to Scripps of the US. The business was wholly acquired in 2013 by John Malone's Liberty Global investment group for $23.3bn, but retains the Virgin Media name, using the Virgin brand under license. The group had 5.5m customers in the UK for its various services at the end of 2018, including 3.9m for cable TV and 3.0m for mobile. Virgin Media is the biggest business within Liberty Global, which also has cable subsidiaries in several other European markets including Belgium (Telenet/BASE) and the Netherlands (the Ziggo/Vodafone joint venture). Several other businesses have been sold since 2016. Various assets in Latin America were divested in 2017. In 2018, Liberty agreed to sell its Unitymedia division in Germany and UPC in several central European countries to Vodafone. Swiss operator UPC was sold in 2019 to local telecoms operator Sunrise. Once completed, those divestments will reduce Liberty's portfolio significantly to the UK and Ireland, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia, in addition to the Dutch joint venture. Reported revenues from continuing operations in 2018 were just under $12.0bn, with net earnings of $725m. Virgin Media in the UK & Ireland accounted for revenues of $6.9bn. However debts remain huge: $29.3bn at the end of 2018. Mike Fries is CEO of Liberty Global; Tom Mockridge is CEO of Virgin Media.
Capsule checked 28th February 2019
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Recent stories from Adbrands Weekly Update:
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th July 2018: Ads of the Week: "A Report of Unconnected Events". Movie and box set buffs will have lots of fun identifying the multitude of sly references in this spectacular short from director Mischa Rozema and prodco PostPanic. The client is cable giant Liberty Global, owner of several different cable TV operators in Europe including Virgin Media in the UK. The idea is to celebrate Liberty's commitment to storytelling and original programming. The irony is: I don't know about you, but we at Adbrands can't think of a single notable original series actually created by Liberty. All the films or shows referenced here (that we recognised anyway) were commissioned elsewhere, even if they were shown on a Liberty strand. Oh well, quibbles aside, it's a stunning piece of work, worth every minute of the time spent watching it.
Adbrands Weekly Update 10th May 2018: Mobile operator Vodafone pushed further into cable TV with a deal to acquire the local operations of John Malone's Liberty Global group in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. Enterprise value of the deal is estimated at €18.4bn. Vodafone already has a substantial mobile presence in Germany, and owns the leading cable provider. The addition of Liberty's Unitymedia, its biggest domestic cable rival, creates an even stronger challenger to local broadband and telecoms leader Deutsche Telekom. Vodafone Kabel and Unitymedia currently serve different areas of the country, so there is no geographic overlap between the two, reducing the likelihood of regulatory issues. Liberty's UPC is the dominant cable provider in the Czech Republic and Hungary and a strong #2 in Romania. However, the merger is expected to provoke considerable opposition from Deutsche Telekom - the main rival in all four markets - as well as traditional broadcasters. Telekom CEO Timotheus Hoettges recently told investors "There will be no way that this deal is going to be approved and for us it's completely unacceptable." The purchase will be made with a mixture of cash and bonds. Most observers expect Liberty to respond with a deal of its own to strengthen its remaining cable operations in Europe, not least in the UK, where it owns Virgin Media.
Adbrands Weekly Update 15th Mar 2018: Virgin Media's chief marketing officer Kerris Bright is to become chief customer officer at the BBC, a newly created role. BBC director-general Tony Hall said "Across the BBC we're working hard to reinvent the organisation for a new generation. Making sure the BBC of the future is uniquely tailored to everyone, and available when and where audiences want it, will be critical to our success. We're making good progress with over 12m people already signed in use the BBC iPlayer, but I want us to step up our efforts on personalisation in the months ahead. Kerris's appointment will help us be even more ambitious in this area."
Adbrands Weekly Update 7th July 2016: Ads of the Week: "Be The Fastest". If it didn't already say in the caption who this ad is really for, you'd be hard-pressed to guess until the final 3 seconds. All the better for that, though, and also for the absence of Richard Branson's grinning mug. Instead what BBH London delivers here is the best ad to-date for Jamaican track hero Usain Bolt, illustrating just how fast he is with a series of entertaining montages. Oh, and actual client Virgin Media gets a look-in at the end too, just for paying for the whole thing. It's a cracking return to form for BBH after what has otherwise been a bit of an under-par half-year.
Adbrands Weekly Update 19th Nov 2015: John Malone's Liberty Global roll-up continued its worldwide acquisition strategy, snapping up all that remains of onetime telecoms giant Cable & Wireless for £3.5bn, or £5.4bn including assumed debt. The former communications pioneer - which built the first undersea transcontinental cable network and at its peak employed 54,000 people and had extensive cable and telecoms operations in the UK and across Asia - is now focused mainly on the Caribbean, with a few pockets of activity elsewhere. Liberty is already the world's biggest cable operator, with 27m customers across 14 countries in Europe and Latin America. Subsidiaries include Virgin Media in the UK and Ziggo in the Netherlands. C&W will add another 6m.
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