Where’s the media in Ascent Media?

Company has cable/media connections, but it’s all about security now
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Thursday, March 17, 2011

PALM BEACH, Fla.—The media in Ascent Media—the new owner of Monitronics—is really limited to the company name. That was one of the messages from Bill Fitzgerald, chairman of the board of Ascent Media Corporation, at the Barnes Buchanan conference here in February.

He got some laughs from the conference crowd when he said: “You’re looking at me and thinking ‘Here come the cable guys again.’”

In some ways, Fitzgerald said, the crowd was right to think that. After all, Fitzgerald came to Ascent Media from AT&T Broadband, formerly known as TeleCommunications, Inc. (TCI).  He also still holds the post of SVP of Liberty Media Corporation, whose chairman is cable industry pioneer John Malone.

Cable “is a business model I feel very comfortable with,” he said. However, Fitzgerald was quick to point out that Ascent Media was divesting its media holdings and its sole operating business going forward will be Monitronics. In addition, while he does still work for Malone, and Malone is the largest stockholder of Ascent (with four percent interest), Malone no longer owns cable companies in the U.S.

Fitzgerald did have some opinions about the much-anticipated incursion of cable companies and telcos into the security space.  

One of his first tasks back in 1996 when he was at TCI was to take a look at home security as a possible new line of service. “After three or four months of study we decided it probably didn’t make sense,” he said. Home security “was a different enough technology, and from a fulfillment perspective that could lead to more challenges. But now it’s 15 years later and the challenges aren’t as great.” Wireless solutions make things easier, and clearly Verizon, Time Warner, and others are testing the waters, he said.

“My view is that [the so-called telco incursion] is great. It only serves to add credibility to the industry and validation of some recent actively up here [Ascent’s decision to take the plunge into security],” he said.

Fitzgerald predicted that more interest from the telcos “will bring awareness at the consumer level and it will bring benefits across the board to the security industry.”