Don’t look for Liberty Media Chairman John Malone to add a cable company to his own portfolio. Although he believes the industry is ripe for consolidation, it’s “unlikely that we would participate in buying stakes in other cable companies other than helping Charter,” CEO Greg Maffei told analysts today. Liberty owns about 27% of Charter, and has been eyeing merger deals with companies including Time Warner Cable, Cox, and Cablevision. Maffei didn’t rule out a hostile deal, although he’d clearly prefer one to be friendly. “I don’t think we’re making a hard statement about where our future lies,” he says. “Ultimately you have to reach some kind of consensus.” He also echoed Charter CEO Tom Rutledge who said earlier today that he’s interested in a merger, but doesn’t consider it a must. A deal “may come to pass. It may not,” Maffei says. Liberty’s investment in Charter “wasn’t conditioned around that optionality.” Maffei says he’s upbeat about the opportunities to sell video programming, despite growing talk from execs including Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan about a future where cable companies just offer broadband — allowing others to provide video over the pipe. But Maffei says that operators will have to think more seriously about replacing today’s all-you-can-eat pricing for broadband with a model that charges people based on how much capacity they use. “There is a risk in a world where you have increasingly large amounts of video streaming and you’re not charging on a per-bit basis,” Maffei says.
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