John Malone says Apple may be a surprise winner in the streaming wars, getting 'large numbers fast'

Key Points
  • Liberty Media Chairman John Malone says Apple could stun investors as a winner in the ever-growing streaming wars.
  • "When you start with 460 consumer relationships, and you give them something for free, that's a very interesting way to get large numbers fast," he said.
  • On Amazon, Malone said the company video unit will evolve to be "a bundler of other peoples' services."
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Liberty Media's John Malone: Streaming content will eventually thin out

Liberty Media Chairman John Malone thinks that Apple could stun investors down the road as a winner in the intense streaming wars that have engulfed Silicon Valley and Hollywood in a bid for viewers and content alike.

"Apple is going to surprise everyone with numbers they achieve in a short period of time. Even though they're thin on content ... when you start with 460 consumer relationships, and you give them something for free, that's a very interesting way to get large numbers fast," he said in an interview Thursday with CNBC's David Faber.

"They can gauge what people like, don't like" and while their approach doesn't prioritize content production, Apple has a "wonderful" mass-distribution strategy, he said.

On Amazon, Malone said the company's video unit will evolve to be "a bundler of other peoples' services."

"I think ultimately, all the tech guys would like to be the platform and let the other guys waste their money on content," he said.

Malone, an icon in the media and cable industries, built cable empire TCI in the 1970s before selling it to AT&T in 1999 for roughly $50 billion.

The Liberty Media chairman also is a director on the board of Discovery Communications, which closed its $15 billion acquisition of Scripps Networks in March of 2018. He was also chairman and CEO of Discovery when it became a public company.

Correction: Discovery Communications closed its acquisition of Scripps Networks in March of 2018. An earlier version misstated the timing.