Interview with Peter Csathy, Sorenson Media

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


Today's interview is with Peter Csathy, President and CEO of Sorenson Media (, which recently relocated its executive offices to San Diego. Csathy told us about the firm's move of its exec offices from Salt Lake City, Utah, to San Diego, as well as its hiring and expansion plans. Csathy was the former CEO of SightSpeed, which he sold to Logitech last year, and also served as COO of MusicMatch, which was sold to Yahoo in 2004.

What is Sorenson Media about?

Peter Csathy: Sorenson Media has been around for several years. Sorenson is best known for having what is widely considered as the best in class video encoding and compression application, Sorenson Squeeze. Sorenson was the initial launching pad for Sorenson Communications, which operates relay services for the hearing impaired, and which is now a very large business, which we spun out a couple of years ago. So, as I mentioned, Sorenson Media has the best-in-class, video compression and encoding software, Squeeze, and we also have Squish, which is a web-based application, and Sorenson Spark, which is one of the most efficient video codecs, used to distribute millions and millions of streams out there. Spark was instrumental in Macromedia Flash, and ultimately became part of Adobe Flash, and Apple's Quicktime. The company has been based in Salt Lake City from the beginning, but we are now expanding with a significant presence and business nerve center in San Diego. We have a major expansion not only to SoCal, but also at our offices in Salt Lake City, and will be taking a more aggressive stance than what we are doing today to help harness the power of video through the Internet.

We understand you're hiring and expanding here in San Diego?

Peter Csathy: Absolutely. We are expanding as we speak, hiring in San Diego, and also in Salt Lake City. We expect we will triple the size of the company in San Diego in the next year. We've already grown significantly in the last few weeks, and have been looking for expanded office space. It's really aggressive growth.

Why San Diego, and what kind of talent are you looking for?

Peter Csathy: One reason we're expanding into San Diego, is we wanted to be more in the heart of digital media in Southern California. The talent we are looking for is across the board, it is certainly engineers, but also looking for marketing and sales. The exciting thing is we not only have the expansion into San Diego, but amid all this gloom and doom, we are not making major cuts, but instead are seeing the opposite for our company. The reason is because of our position--we're profitable, and how many companies can say that. We've got a very strong legacy customer base, a deep installed customer base, and video opportunities in general and the marketplace is growing massively, even in the recession and through the meltdown.

What do you think is the reason for the continued growth in video?

Peter Csathy: On the consumer side, I think consumers are now accustomed to seeing content across the Internet in video form. Although the quality is quite good, we're comfortable that we can optimize it further. There is still a lot of video out there which is poor quality. Customers are also aware of video, not only from the entertainment side, but also from the commerce perspective. People want to have a better understanding of what they are buying, and video over the Internet is also becoming a mechanism for developing business. All the large media companies, anyone with video assets is looking to monetize them, and any savvy, sophisticated company, of any size, understand the power of video to market their ware, to showcase them in a more compelling experience, and drive more sales. In a down economy, they have to be more efficient, create more revenue streams, and video is an obvious way to make that happen.

It seems like there are dozens of different codecs out there--what's special about yours?

Peter Csathy: We have a brand which has been known for quality. We've been around, and have won awards for best in class, and have spread from word of mouth. People are comfortable dealing with our company. We are drop-dead, ease of use. It's high quality, and cost effective. It's also what we are as a company. Other companies have come and gone, but we're profitable and will be there, have been there. A lot of companies in these economic times are having a difficult time getting financing.

How do things like Microsoft Silverlight affect your products?

Peter Csathy: They're an enabler, and provde more power to the user. We are the best way to do compression, encoding, and manipulation, and we work with all the other tools that are around--we're very agnostic in that sense.

Your were previously at SightSpeed and MusicMatch, wasn't that right?

Peter Csathy: I have been in media and digital media for twenty years. I guess that would qualify as "gray hair" in the technology world. I've been in the video space a long, long time. I was in traditional studios in the 90's, was at SightSpeed, and before that was at MusicMatch. We sold SightSpeed to Logitech in November of last year. After that transition was done from SightSpeed to Logitech, this opportunity presented itself. I'm just a passionate believer in the market opportunity, and the position that this company can take in the market.

What have you learned from your prior experience?

Peter Csathy: One of the most obvious things that most people miss is the need to focus. With a laser sharp focus, you don't try to chase everything. The world is full of opportunities, but you need to prioritize, and focus on the ones that are the top ones. If you try to reach too far, you won't succeed. That's an essential part of being an effective leader. Hopefully, you're more right than wrong, and if you're right, you can focus on those, ensure success, and grow that and expand into other opportunities.


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