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R.L. Drake CEO: We'll Be Agile

Jeff Baumgartner
3/26/2009

R.L. Drake LLC may be just the fraction of the size of major cable suppliers such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), but the company's new CEO believes the Franklin, Ohio-based firm will be able to design new gear and bring it to market faster than its larger rivals.

Jeff Huppertz, a cable vet who joined Drake in October as COO before rising to president and CEO this week, says he expects to fashion Drake into "an agile fast-mover." (See Drake Appoints CEO.)

"We want to be an important weapon in the MSO's arsenal. We have the size and agility to quickly react to the operator's changing needs," boasts Huppertz.

Drake expects to reveal more about its new digital cable product strategy at The Cable Show next week, but the vendor has most recently been tied to Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) , a cable consortium that has developed a downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) designed to meet the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's separable security rule. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.) BBT, which is targeting small- and mid-sized U.S. operators, tapped Drake to develop the first digital set-top for the project. (See BBT Notches First Install , BBT's Set-Top Box , and BBT Inches Toward DCAS Solution.)

Outside of the BBT connection, Drake also supplies analog and digital headend gear to traditional MSOs, as well as private and government cable installations. For example, Drake claims its gear can be found on Disney cruise ships, some U.S. Navy vessels, and The White House's "Situation Room."

But the bulk of Drake's business is with franchised cable operators. Drake has some new digital projects underway with tier 1 MSOs like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), but most of its business has come way of smaller cable operators.

Going forward, Huppertz wants to boost Drake's industry profile and "become a key supplier to the industry." Drake will remain committed to serving smaller operators, "but we want to improve and grow our relationships with Tier 1 and Tier 2 MSOs," he says.

But he readily admits that Drake, a private company with fewer than 100 employees, isn't the first cable technology vendor that usually leaps to mind. "In some ways, we're cable's best kept secret," Huppertz adds, noting that Drake reminds him of Scientific-Atlanta (now part of Cisco) when he was with that vendor 20 years ago.

And SA was just one stop along Huppertz's cable technology path. He most recently served as VP of marketing and business development at BroadLogic Network Technologies Inc. , a startup that's developing silicon for digital-to-analog cable gateways. (See BroadLogic Collects More Cable Cred.) In addition to SA, Huppertz's cable career also took him to General Instrument (now part of Motorola). In the early part of the decade, he was with ClearBand LLC, a now-defunct (but evidently prescient) software startup that enabled cable operators to deliver their video lineups securely to PCs over broadband.

Huppertz won't disclose revenue figures for privately held Drake company, but claims the company is profitable, posting gains in each of the last five years.

Hastings Equity Partners acquired Drake in January 2007 for undisclosed terms. Boston-based Hastings targets investments at "profitable businesses with low capital expenditure requirements."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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