Liberty Media’s John Malone On Pushing DirecTV To Buy Netflix A Decade Ago, His Favorite Stocks And Supporting Susan Collins

John Malone
Associated Press

Media patriarch John Malone in a rare appearance said he’d pushed DirecTV to buy Netflix when he was chairman of the satellite broadcaster – a position he held from 2008-10.

The Liberty Media founder and chairman said he had invited Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings to a Liberty board meeting “and he assured us all that he had no intention of producing his own content … to which I responded ‘bullshit.’ It was clear where he was headed. If he didn’t understand [yet], he would,” the man regarded of one of media’s savviest investors said at the Paley Conference where he was interviewed by longtime colleague Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global.

“I tried when I chaired DirecTV to acquire Netflix, and that was when [Hastings] was struggling with getting rid of his old mail platform. What I saw was global scale,” said Malone, who grew to prominence presiding for years over one of the nation’s biggest cable operators, TCI, which he sold to AT&T in 1989. He retained control of Liberty, a holding company whose investments have shifted over the years but currently include positions in SiriusXM, Live Nation, MLB’s Atlanta Braves, Formula One, Discovery, Charter and others.

Asked for a big prediction — the future of media — he said: “I think for me the message is very clear. There is not going to be any more mass media. Media will be the computers of individuals, and every individual will have a deep database on them in the hands of large organizations who are going to use artificial intelligence to service and exploit the knowledge of that individual.”

Speaking from his property in Maine where Malone and his wife have been riding out COVID playing lots of pool, he gave a shout-out to Roku as a deft and expanding channel aggregator and called Amazon a favorite stock.

His advice for President-elect Joe Biden was to work with Mitch McConnell and what he hopes will remain a Republican Senate. “I hope the Republicans retain control of the Senate after January because if you really are a centrist and really want to bring the country together, you can use the leverage of the Senate to keep the House from demanding extremist activities and have a path to achievement of your objectives without being overly disruptive.”

He added, “I gave a lot of money to Susan Collins up here in Maine because she’s been a centrist.” The Maine senator just handily won re-election despite a big Democratic push to unseat her.

In a buy-sell “lightning round,” he told Fries he’s “definitely a buyer” of Amazon and and weighed in on others stocks and sectors thusly:

Google parent Alphabet: “OK,  I would own that stock.

Facebook: “I would own that stock”

(A caveat he noted — both Alphabet and Facebook might face regulatory headwinds.)

Netflix: “Overpriced.”

Disney:  “Overpriced.”

Discovery: “I love it.”

Studio business: “Really tough.”

Movie theaters: “Dying.”

Broadcast networks: “Traditional vehicles [are] going to go.”

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