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Former Insight exec Griffith joins Willner at Penthera

Tue, 02/19/2013 - 1:06pm
Mike Robuck

Melani GriffithIt was an offer that Melani Griffith couldn’t refuse. Yesterday, Griffith started her new job at Penthera Partners, which reunited her with former Insight Communications head honcho Michael Willner.

Griffith was hired as Penthera’s executive vice president of business development. Willner is president and CEO of Penthera, after formerly serving as Insight’s CEO prior to its acquisition by Time Warner Cable last year.

“Melani is the right person for the right job at exactly the right time,” said Willner. “She brings a wide spectrum of experience, including video product management, affiliate sales, content acquisition and advertising sales. Given our focus on mobile video software, she is the perfect person to discuss our products with our distribution and programming network partners.”

Griffith came to Penthera with solid footing in both the cable operator and programmer worlds, which made her uniquely suited in helping Penthera pitch its Cache and Carry product to service providers and programmers. Cache and Carry delivers HD video to iPhones, iPads and Android devices for playback at any time.

Penthera lists licensing partnerships with Comcast, Motorola Mobility, Nokia and HTC on its website. Late last year, Comcast announced that video content from Showtime Networks and Starz Entertainment, including Movieplex and Encore, was available for download on Android and iOS devices, but so far it hasn’t confirmed it’s using Penthera.

Griffith took last summer off after the Insight deal closed early last year and was working locally for Montreal-based Stingray Digital, which is a multi-platform audio music company, before Willner and Penthera came calling.

“It was incredibly appealing,” Griffith said of joining Willner at Penthera. “Michael has either been a client of mine or I have worked for him for over a decade. You don’t say no to Michael, and I would never want to. I feel honored and very excited that he thought of me. I’m very excited about reuniting with him.”

Griffith was senior vice president of programming and video product at Insight. She also ran the eastern sales division for affiliate sales at AMC Networks and was an account executive in advertising for Fox Cable Networks.

In addition to its Cache and Carry service, Penthera also has its Ribit white-label product. Ribit is a cloud-based video-sharing service that’s available in the Apple Store but also customized for network operators to offer to their customers. With Ribit, a service provider can offer a white-label app that allows subscribers to upload and share videos with friends and families in other locations. Griffith, who uses the service to share videos of her two-year-old twins in Montreal with her family in Washington, D.C., said Penthera was in discussions with a number of companies in regard to Ribit deployments, but the company isn’t ready to make any announcements.

“If I can use the Ribit app that is white-labeled by an operator, which in my case here is a Bell app because I have Bell TV, and upload video to the Bell cloud, my mom gets an email with a link, and that’s an easy transfer,” Griffith said. “That’s a fantastic experience for me. It’s a stickier product for my current provider because I’m working with them to maintain those videos.”

One of the earlier speed bumps for TV Everywhere services was whether the customer would fall into the service provider’s domain or the programmer’s, but that’s a moot point these days, according to Griffith.

“We want our partners to be successful, and we want them to continue to enable their viewers or customers to have this complete and true flexibility that they desire today without having to pay iTunes $35 for an entire season of something,” she said. “So we intend to work with both. The programmers, particularly the premium programmers, are driving this in many ways, and we want to work with them as long as there’s an authentication process through the cable providers, which I would think they would still want.

“My role will really be to get in and roll up my sleeves with programmers and operators to figure out how to get these fantastic products, both Cache and Carry and Ribit, launched with cable operators. As a video product manager at Insight, these are the type of products that I would have loved, both in working to develop them with Penthera and offering them to our customers.”

Another stumbling block for multi-screen services has been programmers granting licensing rights to service providers. Griffith cited the recent deal between Comcast and Fox Networks as further proof that the multi-platform rights issues were being solved.

“[Programming rights] was one of the key questions I had for myself before I made the decision to join Penthera,” Griffith said. “I wanted to make sure it was not too early, so I did my own due diligence with operators to understand what stage they were at in getting these rights. I think that certainly those discussions are ongoing all of the time, and it’s my understanding from the conversations that I had as part of my personal due diligence that those rights are being granted.

“Do I think we are on the earlier part of that stage? Absolutely. But I think the wheel is starting to spin, and we’re starting to see the momentum. I think as more people do it, it will happen more and more. It’s a great time for Cache and Carry, in particular, because it kind of coincides with these discussions and breakthroughs that I see the operators and programmers having.”

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