UK internet service provider and cable TV company Virgin Media has announced it will merge with Liberty Global, the international arm of John Malone’s US-based Liberty Media.
The deal, which Liberty says is worth $16 billion, is subject to approval by shareholders, and follows confirmation from the Virgin-branded digital company that its income for last year was up to £699 million from £540 million the previous year.
The international side of Malone’s media empire already has various interests in Europe, and the Liberty chief has previously indicated an interest in moving into the UK.
It’s thought that, for the time being at least, Virgin Media’s UK operations will continue as before, presumably continuing to use the Virgin brand (depending, possibly, on the buy-in of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which owns about 3% of the Virgin Media business).
Virgin Media has arguably been the most supportive of all the UK ISPs in the music and entertainment industries’ attempts to fight online piracy, though, of course, Virgin and BSkyB both have vested interest in that domain, with both operating film services, and therefore having more to lose from the illegal file-sharing of movie content.
Liberty Media has various interests in the film and TV sectors, as well as being a controlling shareholder in US satellite radio company Sirius XM and owning just under a quarter of live entertainment giant Live Nation.