Digital Dealmakers: Gary Marenzi

Jun 26, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The player: Gary Marenzi, president of Ensequence

The play: A stalwart of the interactive television landscape in the United Kingdom, Ensequence is making a big play to capture market share in the United States as U.S. satellite and cable operators place their first round of bets on interactive programming and ads. Ensequence provides software for advertisers, networks and content purveyors to create and manage interactive shows and commercials.

The pitch: Interactivity has been proven to keep viewers more engaged with programming and ads. Mr. Marenzi is reaching out to program producers, networks, distributors and advertisers with that as a hook. “You have to at least have some way of keeping people on the network or they can graze or channel-flip. You don’t want them to get off the couch or to the computer or mobile phone,” he said. “The advertisers and the networks and everyone involved in linear TV is trying to rethink their strategies about how to get the viewer more engaged and I think this plays right into that.”

Making the leap: Ensequence brought Hollywood dealmaker Mr. Marenzi into the fold in mid-June to serve as an ITV evangelist in media epicenters New York and Los Angeles. He’s charged with striking deals with TV programmers and advertisers to use Ensequence’s software to make their content interactive. Mr. Marenzi contends interactivity is a must-have for networks because a new generation has grown up accustomed to interactivity in all its media. The new hire is an unusual move for an ITV company; most don’t have “Hollywood guys” on board. While Ensequence has established a foothold in the U.S. via its distributor deals, the company is now aiming for traction with content creators. “I am a content guy. I am a studio guy,” he said. “I’m not a tech guy. Ensequence said, ‘We have all the tech we need.’ What they needed was someone to work with creative groups and spread the word about what you can do with interactivity.”

In the mix: Ensequence has powered interactivity for the BBC and BSkyB in the U.K. and over the past several months signed development deals in the United States with EchoStar and Cox to integrate into their ITV offerings. Ensequence also has inked deals directly with programmers such as Showtime, Turner Broadcasting and TV Guide to create interactive applications for their programs.

Backstory: Mr. Marenzi is a former president of Paramount International Television, where he oversaw international distribution of Paramount’s films and TV shows. He also held executive posts at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Telecommunications Group. Most recently he headed his own consulting firm.

The 50-year-old Marenzi was born and raised in San Francisco and attended Stanford University, where he received a bachelor’s degree and an MBA. He lives in Santa Monica with his wife and three children.

The money guys: Ensequence was privately funded in its first round in 2000 to the tune of about $20 million. In 2004 the company raised $28 million from institutional investors including Westbury Partners and is currently raising another round of funding. The company is targeting the second half of 2007 to achieve profitability.

Competitors: Cable operators are expected to adopt standards for interactive TV next year, widening the field for more ITV vendors. Competitors include Tandberg TV, OpenTV, eMuse, NDS and Navic Networks.

Who knew?

When Mr. Marenzi graduated from college, he coached a baseball team near Bologna, Italy, for the summer. He returned the following summer to a coach a team in Sardinia.