Wilner, Knafel to Lead Media-Tech Firm Penthera

The two co-founders of Insight Communications, Michael S. Willner and Sidney R. Knafel, are reuniting to invest in and lead a new media-technology venture, Penthera Partners.

Penthera is a privately held software firm whose customers include video distributors, content owners and hardware companies. The company has developed a patented software engine that moves high-definition video between the cloud and smartphones, tablets and IP-enabled set-top boxes.

“With its rich portfolio of products and IP, Penthera is uniquely poised to help the cable industry and other technology companies roll out innovative IP-based video solutions,” Willner said.

Insight grew to become one of the country’s top 10 cable companies before it was sold to Time Warner Cable for $3 billion in February. Willner will guide Penthera, as CEO, through the next phase in its evolution; and Knafel will serve as company vice chairman. Willner, a former two-term chairman of the NCTA, is a widely known and well-respected leader in the cable industry who led Insight for three decades as CEO.

Sidney R. Knafel served as the former chairman and director of Insight until its sale. An early cable TV pioneer, Knafel founded and was chairman of Vision Cable Communications from 1971 until its sale in 1981.

Willner said he began exploring investment opportunities after the sale of Insight in February, and was intrigued by Panthera after he was introduced to key executives through a mutual friend.

“These guys had a solution that would be very additive to where I knew the cable industry was moving — towards an efficient mobile strategy,” he said.

Key to the company’s patent are “certain bells and whistles that allow consumers and operators to set levels of network control,” he said.

Willner described Panthera’s products as “white-label products for cable, telco and satellite, solutions for tech companies that have cloud strategies in mind, that want to move large data files from one place to another, and for content owners who want to deliver product to wireless devices.”