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Interactive-TV Pioneer Jumps to ActiveVideo

8/03/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

Former Time Warner Cable engineering executive John Callahan — a driving force in the development of the cable operator's interactive video services and other applications — is joining ActiveVideo Networks as chief technology officer.

Callahan, who left Time Warner Cable in February after 15 years there, will be responsible for the technical development and deployment across all video platforms for ActiveVideo.

San Jose, Calif.-based ActiveVideo, which changed its name from ICTV in May, sells solutions to cable operators that deliver Web content and interactive applications to set-top boxes. Time Warner Cable, for one, has deployed the ActiveVideo system in at least two systems.

Callahan “brings to us a perspective that we really didn't have before, that deep 15-year experience level of cable technology,” said ActiveVideo CEO Jeff Miller. “And beyond that, he has a deep passion for what consumers actually see when they turn on the TV.”

Callahan said he saw an opportunity for ActiveVideo to drive compelling, video-based interactive TV applications forward now that the cable industry has settled on standards, including Tru2way, formerly referred to as the OpenCable Application Platform, and the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format.

Those two specifications are designed to allow interactive-TV applications to run on any set-top box or other device that supports the same standards.

“The industry timing is really right for bringing other media sources to TV,” he said. “The headline everyone is talking about is delivering Web-sourced video to a diversity of set-tops.”

Added Callahan, “Hopefully EBIF and OCAP will make this easier than it was 10 years ago.”

At Time Warner Cable, Callahan most recently was a senior vice president in the company's Denver-based Advanced Technology Group, in charge of software architecture and development for the operator's interactive program guide.

He also was part of the engineering team that designed and deployed the industry's first digital, interactive television system in the early 1990s. Known as the Full Service Network, the system evolved into the Pegasus digital-television platform that the operator uses in all of its Scientific Atlanta-based systems.

In addition, Callahan is credited as a principal developer of Time Warner's video-on-demand services and MystroTV, the network-based digital video recorder system that became Start Over, which lets viewers rewind in-progress programs to the beginning.

Before joining Time Warner Cable in 1993, Callahan worked in systems software engineering and development at AT&T Bell Labs and US West.

Callahan said he considered opportunities with a few “raw startups” before deciding to join ActiveVideo. (He also joked that he pondered becoming a sherpa in Nepal.)

“I've worked for large corporations my whole career,” he said. “The one constant for me was that I wanted to work with a small company.”

Callahan will remain based in Denver, traveling to ActiveVideo's headquarters in San Jose, Calif.

“When I dug down in San Jose with the engineering team, I was really impressed,” he said. “I thought, 'Man, there are some super-smart people here.' There's great drive here to build the best interactive TV software platform that exists.”

September