Liberty Global Seeks Set-Top Unification

Will trial cloud-based ‘EOS’ platform later this year
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Looking to take advantage of its subscriber scale, Liberty Global is pushing ahead with a plan to develop and deploy a new, unified, cloud-based set-top box/video  platform across Europe, including in the U.K., where Virgin Media has been leaning on a TiVo-powered offering.

EOS is the code-name for that next-gen platform, which will enter trials later this year, Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s president and CEO, explained Tuesday on the company’s first quarter earnings call.

Liberty Global intends to rollout EOS “everywhere at some point,” including the Virgin Media systems. “We already have a TiVo interim plan, or medium-range plan in the U.K.,” Fries said.

“We are committed in the second half of this year to deploying EOS in the United Kingdom,” Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge said. “We'll put some TiVo software on it, but that will us a lot more functionality for our customers.

Balan Nair, Liberty EVP and CTO, noted that EOS will be a “pretty high-powered box” that will also support 4K video. Liberty has previously talked about how its next-gen cloud-based UIs would run on boxes outfitted with the Reference Design Kit, a preintegrated software stack that’s being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.

“The EOS box [is] going to be the engine for the next generation video for Liberty,” Nair said.

Virgin Media is looking to roll out the new platform as it faces stiffer video competition from rival Sky, which is moving ahead on Sky Q, a new next-gen whole-home, multiscreen video platform.

“We are very confident with the TV…relaunch that we have coming through this year, that we've remained very competitive with Sky,” Mockridge said. “So far, we have seen very little impact from the Sky Q, which of course is a very expensive decoder. And we are focused on improving the offering we have there, and EOS is going to be a big part of that.”

Liberty Global is gearing up the next-gen EOS platform in tandem with a broader initiative originally labeled “Liberty 3.0,” a project designed to boost operational efficiencies and “super charge” its growth rate.

“After a solid year of planning, I am pleased to announce that Liberty 3.0 is definitely at go,” Fries said, adding that the initiative has been rebranded “Liberty Go.”

“This is no longer a transformation project or an overlay. It's one integrated plan from top to bottom,” Fries said.

Part of that plan includes the use of master service agreements with Liberty Global’s largest vendors, by category. That, Fries said, will allow for the “cutting off the long tail of company-specific solutions and many vendors.”