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Penthera Downloads Charter, TWC Deals

Penthera,  a startup that specializes in software that manages the secure downloading of TV shows, movies and other content to mobile devices, has reupped its existing agreement with Comcast and has notched deals with Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications.

That’s according to Michael Willner, the CEO of Penthera and the long-time cable exec who was set to take the helm of GreatLand Connections, the MSO spin-off that was to emerge from the proposed (and now scuttled) Comcast-Time Warner Cable transaction.

Comcast started to use Penthera’s Cache & Carry system for downloadable titles offered through an older app called the Xfinity Player in 2012, but is now using the technology to support it on the Xfinity TV Go app as well as for Comcast’s Cloud DVR, which lets customers “check out” recorded titles for viewing on mobile devices when they are offline.

TWC and Charter, which are now set to merge under an agreement announced Tuesday (May 26), are in the process of customizing Penthera’s SDK for their respective environments.

Willner said Penthera has several more deals in the pipeline with other MVPDs as well as with some "major” programmers in the U.S. and abroad. He said Penthera hopes to announce its first deals with programmers “within weeks” that will use the company's download engine with their video apps.

Penthera is also in the process of building a next-gen version of its platform that will enable its partners to switch out ads in TV shows that have already been downloaded . Those capabilities, covered in several patents that have been granted to the company, will ensure that the ads in downloaded shows are kept fresh and should position MVPDs to secure additional rights that enable them to expand the amount of titles they can offer in a downloaded fashion. 

While dynamic ad insertion is used widely in streamed video, “in the downloaded world, it becomes more complicated,” Willner said. “It’s not about when you download the program; it’s about when you watch it in order for the content owners to monetize the viewing of that ad by the consumer. “

Under Penthera’s ad-swapping technique, the system is aware of where the viewer is located and when the last time the viewer made contact via the Internet, and can download a fresh set of ads in the background and insert them into the program that was originally downloaded.

 “It’s constantly updating,” Willner explained.

Willner said discussions about adding that capability are underway and the hope is to have it ready to go later this year or in early 2016, noting that the feature will be “critical” in order for Penthera's partners to secure the rights necessary to offer a greater selection of titles for downloading.

“This had to be solved,” he said.

As a business update, Willner said Penthera is considering an admission of new shareholders through a private offering.  Willner and Sidney R. Knafel, co-founders of Insight Communications (now part of TWC), reunited to invest in and lead Penthera in 2012.

 “We don’t need a whole lot of money in order to get to break even,” he said.