Arthur Griffiths’ career has taken a lot of twists and turns since he sold the Vancouver Canucks in 1996, but the 49-year-old has finally returned to the origin of his family’s fortune: broadcasting.
This time around, though, it’s not a radio-and-television empire like the one his father built that Griffiths is aiming for, but an Internet portal that he believes is a pioneer in the coming age of online broadcasting.
Remember the Hornby Island eagle cam that attracted upwards of three million viewers a day last summer? That was Griffiths’ new company. He was appointed president and CEO of Infotec Business Systems Inc. in April and soon found himself at the centre of a media frenzy as the eagle phenom swept the globe. The attention was nice, Griffiths says, but it was really just a diversion from his long-term plan to build a broadcast portal he believes will pick up where television networks leave off as they fade into the history books.
He’s starting small – so far the channels on Infotec’s wavelit.com portal include live streaming video from an African wilderness retreat and the grizzly pen atop Grouse Mountain – but Griffiths is dreaming big.
Eventually, he hopes to secure broadcast rights to professional sports teams, possibly even including his beloved Canucks. But he’s the first to admit that it’s a long way from a money-losing company trading for pennies on the Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board to securing professional sports broadcast rights.
How did you get involved with Infotec?
Over a year ago I was introduced to the company because I had a show on MOJO radio in Vancouver. For a couple of hours a day, I talked to guests and callers about what it’s like to be making decisions in the sports world. Infotec came to me and said they were doing small-cap business stories, interviewing leaders of industry. They asked if I’d consider doing a segment once a week, interviewing people in the sports world about their business. I did it for a few weeks and I was fascinated because it became evident to me that although we didn’t publicize it much, there were people who knew about it, via the Internet of course, from all over the world. So I said wait a minute here, this is broadcasting, but it’s clearly not traditional because the whole world is our target.
What happened next?
Infotec was trying to build out this broadcast experience and had a test site on the Internet. Our goal was to translate that test site into a broadcast portal. But when we were going through the exercise of building it, we were hit with this phenom: namely, the eagles’ nest.
So we focused virtually all of our energies and resources into making sure the eagles experience would hopefully recapture some revenue. Then, toward the end of the summer, we launched wavelit.com, which is our TV-cable portal, and we started to aggregate more content. Along the way, we’ll bring more eagles and more wildlife.
Did the eagle cam make any money?
We made revenue on it, but it’s a costly industry, between the overhead of running a business – never mind a public company, which is also costly – and the cost of bandwidth.
Are you doing this full time?
Oh yeah. Seven days a week, literally 19, 20 hours a day. I am enjoying it but I’ve got to try to redevelop some balance.
Is this a return to the origins of your family’s business in broadcasting?
Yes. It was easy for me to make the connection. When I looked at my options in the world, I thought you don’t have to think out- side the box to know this business is really about broadcasting. So we’ve announced a memorandum of understanding to acquire a company to take essentially whatever content we create, wherever we get it from, and redistribute it to a TV via a set-top box.
Do you envision broadcasting sports?
Absolutely. Obviously people would say, “Basketball, hockey: that’s what Arthur is going to go after.” Well, we’re not going to be kidding ourselves. We have a lot to do before we can pick up one of the premier leagues. But we have to build those relationships and when I do that, I want to be able to go into someone’s office and plunk down a laptop or turn on a TV and say, “What do you think?” From an eagle webcam to live Canucks games is quite a leap. Would I be happy with professional sports of some sort, including cricket or anything like that? Of course. But we’re not going to kid ourselves and expect that to land in our laps. We’re going to continue to build out. We can trumpet this wonderful story as much as we want but until we deliver, we’re not going to have a lot of believers. So now it’s time for us to deliver.
When you do manage to grab a few hours of free time, how do you spend it?
Family. I’ve got a very young daughter, I take her swimming and to gym classes and things like that. I like to cook. My wife’s a personal trainer but she’s also a chef, and so we like to cook and entertain. So it’s just the simple things at home.
How do you indulge your passion for sports these days?
I still go to the hockey games because that way I also get a chance to spend a little time with my mother. She was the first person I sold a suite to in GM Place, and she’s still going there at 84 years old.
Your career has taken you a lot of places. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully enjoying the fruits of labour a little more, and a little less consumed in the daily operations of this business. But I would hope and anticipate being very much involved in continuing to run this business. I don’t make decisions like this one unless I’m going to enjoy myself.