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GreatLand’s Disconnection Also Disrupted Some Lives

When Comcast abandoned its planned merger with Time Warner Cable, it also pulled the plug on the planned cable company called GreatLand Connections.

“When they said, ‘We’re done,’ we were done too,” GreatLand CEO Michael Willner told The Wire. “It’s all really kind of too bad.”

Some executives had already started working with GreatLand, while others were ready to join later. The company was to spin off as a separate, publicly traded MSO, with about 2.5 million subscribers in Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky. Charter Communications was set to own 33% and provide various services, but Great- Land would have had its own management team and an independent board.

Willner had hired a chief financial officer — Time Warner Cable treasurer Matt Siegel, who has returned to that position — and identified another 15 to 20 senior vice president and VP candidates.

Willner paid visits to systems he thought were going to be under his purview, reassuring them the transition from jobs at Comcast to ones at GreatLand would not disrupt their lives.

“These employees loved working for Comcast,” he said. “I had to convince them that life would be OK with us. It took me a while.”

Some people couldn’t go back to their previous jobs, while others had made efforts such as finding new schools for their children — plans that now have to change again.

“The people aspect of this is just breath-taking,” said Willner, who remains CEO of video software company Penthera Partners.

— Mike Farrell

Vonage Exec Eyes Immigrant TV Viewers Online With YipTV

Michael Tribolet, the former president of online phone service Vonage America, is targeting Spanish-speaking immigrants with a newly launched, live-streaming international offering dubbed YipTV.

Lessons learned from Vonage, Tribolet told The Wire, include the importance of customer care and being prepared to scale up service in a hurry. YipTV customer representatives will be calling early subscribers to find out what their experience was like and will keep a running list of suggested improvements, he said.

“I think the value proposition is customer savings,” via offering a variety of international channels in one package, Tribolet said. YipTV will make connections with bodegas and other retail points where people now buy pre-paid services such as mobile-phone minutes. And the service is willing to compete for its $15 on a monthly basis.

“We believe if we’ve got the best quality, the best price point and consistently offer the product and support, that will be enough to keep the customer,” he said.

YipTV’s app works on iOS and Android devices, and can stream to the TV via Airplay and Google Chromecast. Other than the beIN Sports English- and Spanish-language streams, popular services figure to be TV Azteca from Mexico, TyC Sports (Argentina) and NTN24 (Colombia).

When additional channels come on board, programming to serve immigrants from Asia will be added to the mix, serving that fast-growing segment in the U.S., Tribolet said.

The “Yip” part of the name stands in for “your individualized, personalized” TV, just as the “Von” in Vonage evoked voice on the net.

— Kent Gibbons

Four Ways to Boost Hill’s Networthiness, Via Senators, Reps.

For theHack4Congress programming hackathon on Capitol Hill that ended May 1, legislators challenged the participants with their tech-tool wish lists, asking for apps that would help them use the ’Net more effectively.

Following are four suggestions from Congressfolk who are as social- media focused as the rest of the Webisphere.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.): A daily digest of social media. “With the high volume of social media posts each day, it is hard for staff to view, sort and respond accordingly. Especially in smaller offices [that] don’t have a designated digital staffer, this task is next to impossible. The daily wrap-up would include highly viewed and ‘engaged with’ tweets, FB posts, articles and blog posts.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): A tool to track communications metrics. “The creation of a template to track relevant media metrics, ranging from social media and website analytics to traditional media mentions and measurements would help offices see how all of its communications work together as a whole.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee: An app that auto-filters news and social media. “Design a tool that filters tweets/news on Twitter according to the user’s history and preferences. An auto-filter functionality would be helpful to get users started alongside the options for users to manually customize what they want to see (specific users’ content or subject matter areas, etc.). This way, staffers do not need to sort through 12 hours of missed tweets to find the gold. It’s a smart app that filters for you.”

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.): Bring live politics to the people. “Technology and data has transformed the way we watch sports, and I want that concept applied to politics. I want an app that allows me to see what’s happening on the floor and in each committee — streamed on-demand with access to witness testimony, member’s questions and votes, and bill and amendment text and analyses.”

— John Eggerton