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Cable/Video

RDK Venture Sets Up Shop

Gearing up for business, the new IP video set-top joint venture of Comcast and Time Warner Cable has named its top guy and hired its first two independent contractors.

The one-month-old joint venture, known as RDK Management LLC , announced Thursday that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) executive Steve Heeb will serve as president and GM of the company. Heeb, who is VP of licensing and strategic development at Comcast, will run the company out of offices rented from the giant US MSO in its downtown Philadelphia headquarters.

RDK Management also announced the selection of Silicon Software & Systems Ltd. (S3) and itaas Inc. as its two initial contractors to "provide critical RDK support services" to the joint venture and its licensees. S3 will spearhead code management while itaas will oversee technical support and training for licensees.

RDK, which stands for Reference Design Kit, is a pre-integrated software bundle designed for IP-only and hybrid IP/QAM set-top boxes and gateways. Developed originally by Comcast, its aim is to create a common framework for powering IP-enabled home devices, thereby speeding product development and service deployment and cutting capital costs for providers. Since Comcast introduced it last year, more than 100 companies have licensed the software, including other cable operators, set-top manufacturers, software developers, and chip makers.

In a brief phone interview before he headed off for the IBC conference in Amsterdam, Heeb said he will keep some of his responsibilities at Comcast but focus most of his time on the new joint venture. His plans call for hiring several other staffers over time, including people to run the venture's business development, licensing, and technical support activities.

But RDK Management won't necessarily have a senior executive from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Comcast's partner in the venture, according to Heeb. "It’s not MSO-specific," he says.

With just a handful of staff and a small, undisclosed budget, Heeb said he will mainly rely on "third-party contractors" to carry out the venture's mission. Beyond S3 and itaas, for example, he may hire another contractor to direct the group's testing and validation efforts.

In its new role, S3's job will be to ensure that each licensee's contribution to the common RDK code base is assessed, merged, and tested before it becomes part of the general RDK software release. Based in Dublin, S3 was partly picked for the task because of its European roots because RDK Management is seeking to expand the software bundle's reach beyond North America.

For its part, itaas will direct technical training and support through the company's facilities and multiple labs. It will work through the RDK Community Support Services division.

Heeb says the venture's next step will be to help other cable operators craft and refine their product codes and ramp up for testing and deployment. While Comcast has already started rolling out RDK in its hybrid IP/QAM set-tops and gateways, no other MSO has done so yet.

Although RDK has largely been a North American cable project up until now, Heeb sees growing enthusiasm from European operators as well. While at IBC, he plans to meet with more than a dozen MSOs that have shown interest. By the end of next year, he expects to see RDK deployments about evenly split between European and North American providers.

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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

albreznick 9/13/2013 | 8:50:19 AM
Re: STB of the future Yes, Carol, it could very well be the STB of the future. Yes, it could solve the capex probems of traditional STBs. Not sure about the cloud-based video services question, tho it seems like that should be a yes too. Those are some of the reasons why RDK is so appealing. And, nope, there's nothing more annoying thatn a post full of questions. But thanks for asking. :) 
Carol Wilson 9/12/2013 | 2:37:26 PM
STB of the future So Alan, I asked on the TiVo article what the STB of the future will look like - is this it? Does this solve the capex problems of traditional STBs? Does it will with cloud-based video services? Is there anything more annoying than a post full of questions?
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