Cable Tech

CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

The timing is purely coincidental, but cable's R&D house is about to open up shop in San Francisco and tap into the area's deep software developer pool just days after one of the cable industry's biggest suppliers, Motorola Mobility LLC , got sold to Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), which happens to be one of the world's leading software companies. (See Google-Moto Deal Fans Cable Fears and Will Google Droid Up the Set-Top Box? )

Again, the two moves aren't directly connected, but Louisville, Colo.-based CableLabs just finalized a lease at 180 Market St. Montgomery St. in the San Francisco financial district and expects to have things up and running there within the next month, CableLabs President and CEO Paul Liao tells Light Reading Cable. Multichannel News first reported in March that CableLabs had plans to open an office in the Bay Area later this year.

The new facility will be led by John Carney, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s SVP of advanced engineering, who is on loan to CableLabs through 2012 to get it established. Carney, a founder of interactive TV technology pioneer MetaTV (now part of Comcast), is being joined by CableLabs SVP of Technology Development Jean-François Mulé, who joined the R&D outfit in 2002 and will head up the new office's technical staff.

Liao, who expects to spend up to 20 percent of his time at the new digs, says CableLabs plans to add another five to 10 employees in San Francisco later this year. CableLabs already has listed three job postings for the California office: senior software engineer/software engineering manager; software engineer; and software engineer-test.

"There's a lot of good talent in the city itself and in the North and East Bay," Carney says, noting that Google has a significant presence there. The new site is also located between Comcast facilities in Mill Valley and Mountain View, so the new CableLabs office will also have access to the MSO's lab space and test equipment.

"This is a major commitment that we're making," Liao says, noting that the CableLabs board approved the idea when he was hired in 2009. (See Panasonic's Liao Is New CableLabs CEO and Liao Puts the CE in CableLabs.)

Decision drivers
Injecting cable with the Bay Area's culture for innovation and its software talent pool, as well as helping cable establish stronger relationships with the area's startups are among the reasons CableLabs set its sights on the region.

"The Bay Area has a unique culture that's grown up over time, that's created companies like Facebook and Google, and going back to HP," Liao says, noting that companies in the area are "leading what's becoming the next generation of the Internet."

"Although there are plenty of other regions that have this sort of startup mentality these days, I think the Bay Area is still the king of that," he adds.

CableLabs is also pitching a tent there as the industry gets ready to become a more prominent player in the deployment and development of applications, which Liao believes is the "the next big challenge" that cable is facing.

Cable is making progress in that area with technologies like Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), which can be used in any class of set-top box, "but the next stage will go beyond that" as MSOs and programmers continue to target a larger set of devices and apps that aim to enhance the traditional cable experience, Liao says.

Although the San Francisco office will be focused on cable innovation, he stressed that the CableLabs West coast and Colorado teams will be collaborating on several projects.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:55:56 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

BTW, the tag line for the open California job postings 'splain the focus and direction of the new facility: "Develop Apps for TVs and tablets! Be part of the evolution of TV and Communications!"




DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 4:55:56 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

I agree with tera, the list of failed companies that moved to the Bay Area to find talent is long indeed. Moving does not a culture make. CableLabs is an outdated institution and it needs a more thorough shaking up. Too bad we aren't writing that story.


opticalwatcher 12/5/2012 | 4:55:56 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

They should study Apple before/after Steve Job's rehire. Before hand it was like this--they had a lot of talent and ideas, but no focused direction. They floundered.

If this John Carney character has some solid plans and is a strong, focused manager, then this is a good idea.

But if they are just setting up an office, hoping to absorb the 'Bay Area Mojo', then I don't expect much to happen.

paolo.franzoi 12/5/2012 | 4:55:55 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs


I found the following bits interesting:

- Locating in the financial district?  Really?  Maybe nice for Comcast but sheesh really?

- This notion that small innovative Engineering Startup guys want ANYTHING to do with large bureaucratic organizations (see Anonymous - THAT is the employee base you are going for).

- If they want to attract these folks, where is the Open Source version of things?

I do find these things really humorous....let's go talk to the innovative startups because they might be more attracted to talk to AT&T (!)...err Apple.  So, are the cable guys thinking they can come in the same cool zone as Apple and Google?





Duh! 12/5/2012 | 4:55:55 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

If they were really smart, they'd be focused on virtual workplace.  Think about it:

1) There's talent in the Bay Area.  But equally great talent (perhaps with different skill sets) around Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Diego, Dallas and Chicago.  And great individuals scattered elsewhere.  Why restrict themselves to one pocket of geopgraphy?

2) Why pick on an area where they're competing with Google, Apple and other trendy, high paying companies for top talent, to the exclusion of places where that competition is less?

3) They've got to be paying a fortune in real estate.

4) Most important, they whould be eating their own dog food.  Why would they not use their own operation to showcase the possibilities for using DOCSIS-based consumer broadband to bring people to work?


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:55:55 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

Someone else brought up the SF financial district decision to me, wondering if it's a great idea to base the new site there if the actual talent they're trying to attract might be faced with a lengthy commute. But agree that they'll be faced with some major convincing as they try to attract people; as for the startups, they might be a tad wary until they get a better fix on exactly what kind of relationship cable wants to forge w/them.  JB



Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:55:55 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

Adding a presence in the Bay Area can't hurt, given where cable needs to direct its attention now, though I'm curious to know what some of the Colorado-based folks think about this ideal.  CableLabs isn't moving the whole operation there -just a piece of it. A culture can't be changed overnight, but this is a step in that direction, and they've obviously identified something that needs to be addressed if the R&D house is to remain relevant long-term. JB

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:55:54 PM
re: CableLabs Set to Open Bay Area Digs

I wonder about the financial district too.  When someone says they want to tap SF engineering talent, I think OK: Potrero area, home to lots of hipster 20-somethings and companies like Real Networks.

There's been a shift overall in the center of gravity ... I don't have stats to back it up, but it sure seems like companies trying to tap Bay Area talent have been going to SF more than the Silicon Valley area. It's been going on a while, since at least the early days of "Web 2.0" being a buzzword.

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