Cable Tech

CableLabs CEO Liao Sets His Exit

CableLabs President and CEO Paul Liao is departing in six months and won't be staying on beyond the life of his three-year contract with the Colorado-based R&D house, Light Reading Cable has learned.

Industry sources say Liao has been alerting CableLabs execs and the organization's MSO membership of his decision this week. A specific reason for his decision was not immediately known, but providing six months' notice will give the cable industry ample time to recruit a replacement.

CableLabs was not available for comment Thursday. A formal announcement about Liao's future at CableLabs is believed to be imminent.

Update: CableLabs confirmed Friday morning that Liao has decided not to renew his contract when it expires in December 2012 for "personal reasons."

Liao, the former chief technology officer of Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC), was named the head of CableLabs in June 2009, succeeding Dr. Richard Green, who was retiring and, at the time, was the only person to hold the top post at CableLabs since its founding in 1988. (See Panasonic's Liao Is New CableLabs CEO and CableLabs Chief Bows Out.)

In selecting Liao, the cable industry went outside its pool of CTOs and high-level engineers in the hope that Liao could create a closer connection to the consumer electronics industry and its culture, particularly as MSOs were faced with the possibility of AllVid, a potential successor to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's CableCARD rules. (See Liao Puts the CE in CableLabs.)

Despite tru2way's negligible effect in retail, the cable industry has made some progress on the CE front, creating deals that will give MSOs a presence on some connected TVs and specialized broadband video devices. Under Liao's watch at CableLabs, several MSOs, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have also developed TV Everywhere applications for the wildly popular Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad. (See Tru2way: Epic Fail at Retail, IP Will Trump Tru2way , CES 2011: Samsung Puts MSOs in the Picture, Comcast, Verizon Connect With the Xbox 360, Comcast Invades the iPad and Cablevision Launches iPad App With 280+ Channels .)

Liao's biggest and perhaps most controversial move was to open up an office in San Francisco this year as an attempt to help CableLabs tap the region's deep pool of software talent and innovative culture. "This is a major commitment that we're making," Liao said at the time. (See CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs .)

The CableLabs board is said to be enthusiastic about the new presence in San Francisco, but not everyone at CableLabs has been wild about the idea, and the decision to open the office there has been a source of contention for some Colorado-based staffers, multiple sources have told Light Reading Cable on several occasions during recent months.

Others say the decision, despite some reservations, may still prove to be a good one. "I think [the San Francisco office] does somewhat de-focus some of the activities at CableLabs," says a high-level cable engineer. "But are we, as an industry, committed to being innovative or reactive? If we are committed to being innovative, then we need to do some things differently."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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