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June 10, 2009
After a lengthy search, the CableLabs board has appointed Dr. Paul Liao, the chief technology officer of Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) of North America, as the new president and CEO of the Colorado-based cable R&D house, Cable Digital News has learned.
Several industry insiders indicated that an announcement could come late Tuesday, but now it's believed CableLabs will formally go public with its decision sometime Wednesday.
CableLabs declined to comment. Dr. Liao could not be reached for comment via email late Tuesday afternoon. (See Has CableLabs Found Its Man?)
Update: CableLabs, as expected, confirmed Liao's selection on Wednesday morning. "Paul gives us the perfect blend of laboratory and research knowledge, as well as experienced business leadership," CableLabs board chairman and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said, in a statement. "The Board is united in its view that Paul is the right person to lead the laboratory going forward." (See CableLabs Picks Liao as Prez & CEO.) Cable Digital News has been unable to confirm an official starting date for Liao, but Dr. Richard Green, the only person to hold the top post of CableLabs since taking the helm in 1988, has signaled his intention to retire at the end of this year. The release issued this morning notes that Liao will work alongside Green during a "transition period." (See CableLabs Chief Bows Out.)
It's well known that the MSOs behind CableLabs have been keen on hiring a successor from outside the industry rather than selecting a more obvious candidate from cable's traditional, top-level engineering ranks.
Liao fits that profile, but he also knows his way around the cable industry and should give CableLabs and its members some fresh perspective on how cable can work more closely with the consumer electronics (CE) industry.
Panasonic, aided by Liao's influence, has been a valuable CE champion of tru2way, an "open" middleware and headend platform that's expected to herald the availability of interactive, cable-ready digital TVs and set-tops through retail outlets.
For its part, Panasonic has partnered with Comcast on the development of set-tops based on tru2way, as well as two tru2way-certified digital TVs that are for sale in some retail stores in Denver, Chicago, and Atlanta. (See Panny Shows Off Tru2way, Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs, and Tru2Way in Atlanta.)
Although Liao has not worked for an MSO, "he is someone who's been in the CE industry for a long time," says a source who is aware of the coming appointment. "If that's the direction the industry is heading with tru2way… he'd be a good leader for that. He knows all the manufacturers and is very involved in all of this stuff at a high level."
And his involvement won't start and stop with tru2way. CableLabs also heads up high-profile specification projects such as Docsis, PacketCable, and advanced advertising.
Those who know Liao say he's "calm" and has the "the right temperament" for a politically charged job at CableLabs that will require him to help find common ground among the world's largest MSOs, vendors, trade organizations, and even some cable competitors that don't always see eye-to-eye with the cable sector's specification efforts. (See Verizon: No Way on tru2way .)
LRTV caught up with Liao at the recent cable show in Washington. During the interview he provides his perspective on tru2way and the role Panasonic is playing in that area.
According to a recent biography, Liao has served on the boards of the Internet Home Alliance and the Information Technology Industry Council, on the Consumer Electronics Association board of industry leaders, and on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) technological advisory council.
Before joining Panasonic, he held a number of positions at Bell Communications Research Inc. and Bell Laboratories. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University, he is also a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) , the American Physical Society, and the Optical Society of America.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News
Senior Editor, Light Reading
Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.
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