Video software

Comcast's Program-Guide Chief Exiting

Gerard Kunkel, the Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) exec tasked with leading the design of the company's video navigation products, is leaving the company at the end of February, Light Reading Cable has learned.

Comcast confirmed that Kunkel, who joined the MSO seven years ago, was exiting, but didn’t provide a reason or say who would succeed him. Kunkel currently serves as Comcast's senior VP of user experience and product design.

Kunkel didn't offer a reason either when he shared news of his upcoming departure via e-mail to contacts on Friday. According to that message, obtained by Light Reading Cable, Kunkel said he would "be transitioning my staff and programs to other leaders" over the coming weeks. "I will be exploring new opportunities in the rapidly changing digital media space," he added.

He also plans to remain "very active" in the cable industry via his TV Academy role and other industry volunteer activities. Kunkel also operates a blog called Nautics TV.

During his tenure at Comcast, Kunkel helped create the GuideWorks LLC joint venture with what's now known as Rovi Corp. It was formed in 2004 and dissolved last year, giving the MSO ultimate control of GuideWorks and its range of video navigation, though Rovi did provide Comcast an expanded license that gives the MSO access to Rovi's all-important navigation patents. (See Rovi Exits Comcast Guide JV.)

During that time, Comcast developed the "A28 i-Guide," a next-gen interactive program guide for Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) set-top boxes that support features such as remote DVR scheduling, an improved search tool, and the ability to start a video-on-demand (VoD) movie on one set-top in the house and resume it on another. Comcast has also been working on Buckeye, a glossier IPG that takes advantage of the 16-by-9 aspect ratio of hi-def TVs. (See Comcast: 'AnyRoom DVR' is Live in 20+ Markets .)

Kunkel's departure would appear to leave a vacuum at Comcast, potentially crimping its IPG product efforts. However, it also comes amid an expected shift in the technology model for cable navigation systems. Rather than developing guides for older set-tops that require significant regression testing and weeks to make major and trivial changes, operators such as Comcast are starting to pursue more nimble, Web-enabled platforms that can make changes almost on the fly -- and not just for souped-up set-tops, but for iPads and other tablets as well. (See Comcast to Stream TV to iPads, Android Tablets .)

Among recent examples is Comcast's Xcalibur experiment in Augusta, which teams a Web services platform with hybrid gateways/set-tops with IP spigots to go along with their more traditional RF-based connections. (See Comcast Tests Broadband-Fed Xcalibur Service and What's Inside Comcast's Parker Box?)

Before joining Comcast, Kunkel was president of WorldGate Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WGAT), a company that was once tied to TVGateway LLC, an IPG consortium formed in 2000 with Comcast, Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications. WorldGate sold its iTV assets to TVGateway in October 2003 for $2.5 million and changed its focus to broadband videophones.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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