Liberty Global | Annual Report 2015 Liberty Global | Annual Report 2015

Building Tomorrow’s Network Today To­morrow’s Network

On the day Project Lightning was announced, the training center at Virgin Media’s Birmingham office was buzzing with excitement when UK Prime Minister David Cameron stepped into the room. The Prime Minister had come to Birmingham to show his endorsement of Virgin Media’s landmark network expansion program, which will connect 4 million more UK homes to ultrafast broadband. As Cameron jokingly referred to in his speech, this will allow parents like himself to watch Catch Up TV while leaving sufficient bandwidth for their children to play games or do their homework online.

But the impact of Project Lightning and Liberty Global’s other network investments, such as Telenet’s Giga Network upgrade, reaches far beyond the obvious consumer benefits. They are also, as Cameron highlighted, an investment in the societies and economies in which we operate – a view that is increasingly shared by politicians and policymakers across our footprint.

Investing to Help Individuals and Businesses Thrive in Our Digital Economy

Extending our speed leadership

As the world’s largest international cable company, connecting people through our next-generation broadband infrastructure is the backbone of our business. The power of our networks enables us to deliver unrivaled speeds, which is one of our key differentiators as consumers spend more time using streaming video and other bandwidth-heavy services on multiple devices in and outside the home.
Over the past five years, we invested about $10 billion in our networks to build on our competitive edge and expand our reach, making Liberty Global one of the largest broadband investors in Europe. As a result, we more than tripled our average downstream speeds to 87Mbps at the end of last year. Our next-generation DOCSIS 3.1 technology has the potential to extend our speed leadership to multiple gigabytes per second when it’s fully deployed.

At the same time, we are widening the spectrum of our networks to allow even more data to be transmitted, of which Telenet’s Giga Network is a perfect example.
Prime Minister David Cameron at the launch of Virgin Media’s network expansion program, Project Lightning

I welcome this substantial investment from Virgin Media which is a vote of confidence in our long-term economic plan to support business and create jobs by building a superfast nation backed by world-class infrastructure. This additional private investment will create more opportunities for people and businesses, further boosting our digital economy and helping secure a brighter future for Britain.
David Cameron, UK Prime Minister

Boosting the UK economy

One of our largest network expansions is Project Lightning. The £3 billion program, the single largest private investment in UK digital infrastructure in more than a decade, will connect 4 million more homes and businesses to Virgin Media’s cable footprint by 2020. That means 65% of UK premises will be able to enjoy speeds of up to 200Mbps, which is at least twice as fast as those available from other major providers.
The landmark program will pay immense social and economic dividends. The building project itself will create 6,000 jobs at Virgin Media and across its construction partners. In the longer term the project is estimated to boost the UK economy by nearly £8 billion, including indirect job creation, productivity gains and consumer benefits.

With 250,000 new premises connected in 2015 and higher-than-anticipated take-up rates, Project Lightning is off to a great start. In some areas with new property development, up to 50% of the newly connected homes are converting to customers after 6 to 12 months. This success has prompted us to pursue even more expansion opportunities across our operations. In total, we expect to add 7 million premises to our footprint over the next three years, including over 1.5 million in 2016.

Key socio-economic highlights of Project Lightning

Creating Europe’s largest 1GHz network

In Belgium, Telenet is investing €500 million to widen its network spectrum from 600 MHz to 1 GHz, which will eventually allow broadband speeds of at least 1Gbps across its footprint. The five-year project, which will create 250 new jobs, involves replacing 150,000 amplifiers and 1.8 million taps and splitters across its 70,000 kilometers of infrastructure.

The upgrade will create the largest 1 GHz network in Europe, opening the door to even more innovation and investment in the digital economy of Flanders. Citing its importance for the Belgian economy, the project was endorsed by dozens of local and national politicians and policymakers, including Prime Minister Geert Bourgeois of the Flemish government.

Telenet's Giga Network: Creating the largest 1GHz network in Europe

Broadband investments as a force for good

Apart from the direct benefit to our business and consumers, broadband investments are increasingly recognized as a force for good, promoting social cohesiveness and boosting competitiveness in the global digital economy. In its Digital Agenda 2020, the European Commission has set ambitious goals to connect the region to competitively priced high-speed broadband in order to reap the full benefits of the digital world and drive economic growth. According to research by the World Bank, a 10% increase in broadband penetration will lift gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 1.5% through the creation of jobs, innovation and an overall increase in efficiency and productivity.

As more and more of our lives moves into the online domain, including communications with governments, educators and health providers, we at Liberty Global have a social responsibility to connect as many people as we possibly can. We are continuously expanding our networks, which already stretch nearly 800,000 kilometers and pass 53.4 million homes, to make ultrafast broadband available to even more people. Moreover, we are addressing the issue of digital inclusion through our corporate responsibility (CR) efforts, about which you can read more here.

Widening the spectrum of our networks will enable emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR)

Upgrades to support new technologies

In addition to our expansion projects, we are also upgrading our networks to adapt to changing consumer behavior and support the uptake of new applications that require high bandwidth and uncompromised quality. Annual global IP traffic will increase nearly threefold between 2014 and 2019 and exceed the threshold of one zettabyte, or 1 billion terabytes, this year *.

By widening the spectrum of our networks we allow more data to be transmitted at even higher speeds, which will enable emerging technologies such as machine-to-machine communications and virtual reality (VR).

Engaging with policymakers

Across our operations, engaging with local and national governments is crucial to the success of our investment programs. It helps create a positive policy environment and ensures optimal planning conditions, so we can carry out the construction work in the most cost-effective way.
But the endorsement from politicians like UK Prime Minister David Cameron also helps drive demand for our services.

For instance, Cameron’s involvement in the launch of Project Lightning resulted in hundreds of additional press articles, which helped UK consumers understand what we are doing and how we are creating value for them and their communities. As a consequence, they are more likely to buy our products, which in turn allows us to invest in our networks, delivering benefits to the economy and society for years to come.

* Source: Cisco Visual Networking Index, 2015


Information presented in our Online Annual Report is as of December 31, 2015, unless otherwise stated. Highlights that refer to statements such as ‘current’ or ‘to date’ are as of our earnings release dated February 15, 2016.

Forward-Looking Statements

This online Annual Report contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, including our expectations with respect to our future growth prospects. See pages I-5, I-6 and I-7 of the Annual Report on Form 10-K available on this website for a description of other forward-looking statements included in this review and certain of the risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such statements. 

Notes on Defined Terms

When reviewing and analyzing our operating results and statistics, it is important to keep in mind that other third party entities own significant interests in certain of our subsidiaries. For additional information, see note 18 to our consolidated financial statements in the Annual Report on Form 10-K.

Financial metrics

  1. As used herein, operating cash flow or OCF has the same meaning as the term “Adjusted OIBDA” that is referenced in our Form 10-K. For our definition of Adjusted OIBDA and the related reconciliation, see note 18 to our consolidated financial statements in the Annual Report on Form 10-K. 
  2. Rebased revenue and OCF growth is presented to show growth on a comparable basis by neutralizing the effects of acquisitions and foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations. For purposes of calculating rebased revenue and OCF growth, we have adjusted our historical 2014 revenue and OCF to (i) include the pre-acquisition revenue and OCF of certain entities acquired during 2014 and 2015 in the respective 2014 rebased amounts to the same extent that the revenue and OCF of such entities are included in our 2015 results and (ii) reflect the translation of our 2014 rebased amounts at the applicable average exchange rates that were used to translate our 2015 results.
  3. Our OCF margin is calculated by dividing OCF by total revenue for the applicable period. 
  4. We define free cash flow or FCF as net cash provided by our operating activities, plus (i) excess tax benefits related to the exercise of share-based incentive awards, (ii) cash payments for third-party costs directly associated with successful and unsuccessful acquisitions and dispositions and (iii) expenses financed by an intermediary, less (a) capital expenditures, as reported in our consolidated statements of cash flows, (b) principal payments on amounts financed by vendors and intermediaries and (c) principal payments on capital leases (exclusive of the portions of the network lease in Belgium and the duct leases in Germany that we assumed in connection with certain acquisitions), with each item excluding any cash provided or used by our discontinued operations. For additional information concerning these definitions and calculations, please see our earnings release dated February 15, 2016.
  5. Basis of Presentation: with the exception of Net earnings (loss) and Net earnings (loss) attributable to Liberty Global shareholders, all Operating and Financial information contained herein is that of our continuing operations.
  6. Revenue, OCF and Operating Income for the year ended 2015. For a reconciliation of combined OCF to operating income, see our earnings releases dated February 15, 2016.

Subscriber metrics

  1. Unless otherwise indicated in this online Annual Report, subscriber growth statistics exclude subscribers of acquired entities at the date of acquisition, but include the impact of changes in subscribers from the date of acquisition. These statistics are presented on a net basis.
  2. Homes Passed are homes, residential multiple dwelling units or commercial units that can be connected to our networks without materially extending the distribution plant, except for DTH and Multi-channel Multipoint (“microwave”) Distribution System (“MMDS”) homes. Our Homes Passed counts are based on census data that can change based on either revisions to the data or from new census results. We do not count homes passed for DTH. With respect to MMDS, one MMDS customer is equal to one Home Passed. Due to the fact that we do not own the partner networks (defined below) used in Switzerland and the Netherlands (see note 11) we do not report homes passed for Switzerland’s and the Netherlands’ partner networks.
  3. Two-way Homes Passed are Homes Passed by those sections of our networks that are technologically capable of providing two-way services, including video, internet and telephony services.
  4. Customer Relationships are the number of customers who receive at least one of our video, internet or telephony services that we count as Revenue Generating Units (“RGUs”), without regard to which or to how many services they subscribe. To the extent that RGU counts include equivalent billing unit (“EBU”) adjustments, we reflect corresponding adjustments to our Customer Relationship counts. For further information regarding our EBU calculation, see Additional General Notes to Tables. Customer Relationships generally are counted on a unique premises basis. Accordingly, if an individual receives our services in two premises (e.g., a primary home and a vacation home), that individual generally will count as two Customer Relationships. We exclude mobile-only customers from Customer Relationships.
  5. Revenue Generating Unit or "RGU" is separately a Basic Video Subscriber, Enhanced Video Subscriber, DTH Subscriber, MMDS Subscriber, Internet Subscriber or Telephony Subscriber. A home, residential multiple dwelling unit, or commercial unit may contain one or more RGUs. For example, if a residential customer in our Austrian market subscribed to our enhanced video service, telephony service and broadband internet service, the customer would constitute three RGUs. Total RGUs is the sum of Basic Video, Enhanced Video, DTH, MMDS, Internet and Telephony Subscribers. RGUs generally are counted on a unique premises basis such that a given premises does not count as more than one RGU for any given service. On the other hand, if an individual receives one of our services in two premises (e.g., a primary home and a vacation home), that individual will count as two RGUs for that service. Each bundled cable, internet or telephony service is counted as a separate RGU regardless of the nature of any bundling discount or promotion. Non-paying subscribers are counted as subscribers during their free promotional service period. Some of these subscribers may choose to disconnect after their free service period. Services offered without charge on a long-term basis (e.g., VIP subscribers, free service to employees) generally are not counted as RGUs. We do not include subscriptions to mobile services in our externally reported RGU counts. In this regard, our December 31, 2015 RGU counts exclude our separately reported postpaid and prepaid mobile subscribers.
  6. Basic Video Subscriber is a home, residential multiple dwelling unit or commercial unit that receives our video service over our broadband network either via an analog video signal or via a digital video signal without subscribing to any recurring monthly service that requires the use of encryption-enabling technology. Encryption-enabling technology includes smart cards, or other integrated or virtual technologies that we use to provide our enhanced service offerings. With the exception of RGUs that we count on an EBU basis, we count RGUs on a unique premises basis. In other words, a subscriber with multiple outlets in one premises is counted as one RGU and a subscriber with two homes and a subscription to our video service at each home is counted as two RGUs. In Europe, we have approximately 133,800 “lifeline” customers that are counted on a per connection basis, representing the least expensive regulated tier of video cable service, with only a few channels.
  7. Enhanced Video Subscriber is a home, residential multiple dwelling unit or commercial unit that receives our video service over our broadband network or through a partner network via a digital video signal while subscribing to any recurring monthly service that requires the use of encryption-enabling technology. Enhanced Video Subscribers that are not counted on an EBU basis are counted on a unique premises basis. For example, a subscriber with one or more set-top boxes that receives our video service in one premises is generally counted as just one subscriber. An Enhanced Video Subscriber is not counted as a Basic Video Subscriber. As we migrate customers from basic to enhanced video services, we report a decrease in our Basic Video Subscribers equal to the increase in our Enhanced Video Subscribers. Subscribers to enhanced video services provided by our operations in Switzerland and the Netherlands over partner networks receive basic video services from the partner networks as opposed to our operations.
  8. DTH Subscriber is a home, residential multiple dwelling unit or commercial unit that receives our video programming broadcast directly via a geosynchronous satellite.
  9. MMDS Subscriber is a home, residential multiple dwelling unit or commercial unit that receives our video programming via a MMDS.
  10. Internet Subscriber is a home, residential multiple dwelling unit or commercial unit that receives internet services over our networks, or that we service through a partner network. Our Internet Subscribers exclude 53,000 digital subscriber line (“DSL”) subscribers within Austria that are not serviced over our networks. Our Internet Subscribers do not include customers that receive services from dial-up connections. In Switzerland, we offer a 2 Mbps internet service to our Basic and Enhanced Video Subscribers without an incremental recurring fee. Our Internet Subscribers in Switzerland include 100,000 subscribers who have requested and received this service.
  11. Telephony Subscriber is a home, residential multiple dwelling unit or commercial unit that receives voice services over our networks, or that we service through a partner network. Telephony Subscribers exclude mobile telephony subscribers. Our Telephony Subscribers exclude 41,300 subscribers within Austria that are not serviced over our networks. In Switzerland, we offer a basic phone service to our Basic and Enhanced Video Subscribers without an incremental recurring fee. Our Telephony Subscribers in Switzerland include 57,200 subscribers who have requested and received this service.
  12. Pursuant to service agreements, Switzerland and, to a much lesser extent, the Netherlands offer enhanced video, broadband internet and telephony services over networks owned by third-party cable operators (“partner networks”). A partner network RGU is only recognized if there is a direct billing relationship with the customer. At December 31, 2015, Switzerland’s partner networks account for 139,500 Customer Relationships, 284,400 RGUs, 104,400 Enhanced Video Subscribers, 106,600 Internet Subscribers, and 73,400 Telephony Subscribers.

Additional general notes to tables:

Most of our broadband communications subsidiaries provide telephony, broadband internet, data, video or other B2B services. Certain of our B2B revenue is derived from small or home office (“SOHO”) subscribers that pay a premium price to receive enhanced service levels along with video, internet or telephony services that are the same or similar to the mass marketed products offered to our residential subscribers. All mass marketed products provided to SOHOs, whether or not accompanied by enhanced service levels and/or premium prices, are included in the respective RGU and customer counts of our broadband communications operations, with only those services provided at premium prices considered to be “SOHO RGUs” or “SOHO customers”. With the exception of our B2B SOHO subscribers, we generally do not count customers of B2B services as customers or RGUs for external reporting purposes.

Certain of our residential and commercial RGUs are counted on an EBU basis, including residential multiple dwelling units and commercial establishments such as bars, hotels and hospitals in Chile and Puerto Rico and certain commercial and residential multiple dwelling units in Europe (with the exception of Germany and Belgium, where we do not count any RGUs on an EBU basis). Our EBUs are generally calculated by dividing the bulk price charged to accounts in an area by the most prevalent price charged to non-bulk residential customers in that market for the comparable tier of service. As such, we may experience variances in our EBU counts solely as a result of changes in rates. In Germany, homes passed reflect the footprint and two-way homes passed reflect the technological capability of our network up to the street cabinet, with drops from the street cabinet to the building generally added, and in-home wiring generally upgraded, on an as needed or success-based basis. In Belgium, Telenet leases a portion of its network under a long-term capital lease arrangement. These tables include operating statistics for Telenet's owned and leased networks.

While we take appropriate steps to ensure that subscriber statistics are presented on a consistent and accurate basis at any given balance sheet date, the variability from country to country in (i) the nature and pricing of products and services, (ii) the distribution platform, (iii) billing systems, (iv) bad debt collection experience and (v) other factors add complexity to the subscriber counting process. We periodically review our subscriber counting policies and underlying systems to improve the accuracy and consistency of the data reported on a prospective basis. Accordingly, we may from time to time make appropriate adjustments to our subscriber statistics based on those reviews.

Subscriber information for acquired entities is preliminary and subject to adjustment until we have completed our review of such information and determined that it is presented in accordance with our policies.

Promotional videos

The promotional videos included in this online Annual Report are examples of recent marketing campaigns. The videos may contain information and product offerings that are no longer valid.