Liao Named CableLabs CEO

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CableLabs said Tuesday that it has named Panasonic Corp. of North America vice president and chief technology officer Paul Liao as its new president and CEO, replacing the retiring Dick Green.

Liao has led Panasonic's technology direction and R&D in North America.. Prior to joining Panasonic, he held a number of positions at Bell Communications Research, Inc. (Bellcore) and Bell Laboratories. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University and is a recipient of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Millennium Medal.

Liao replaces Green who has led the laboratory since September 1988. Green announced in September 2008 that he would retire as CEO of CableLabs when his contract expires in December 2009.

In an interview, CableLabs chairman and Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts said it was Liao's extensive background in the consumer electronics industry and research that made him the top candidate for the position. Roberts noted that the CableLabs board looked at about 100 candidates, but was unanimous in its decision to hire Liao.

Roberts said that Liao's combination of research experience and business savvy sealed the deal.

Liao is no stranger to the cable community. Panasonic has been a big proponent of tru2way, the CableLabs interactive TV initiative, and Liao has done extensive work to help advance the category of tru2way devices. At the 2008 Cable Show, for instance, he spoke at an OCAP developer's conference, as well as to a CTAM group, about why consumers like the concept of a set-top built into a TV set.
Liao's cable connections also extend to the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where he participated in the annual CTO panel, put on by the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, in 2006. There, he called OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform, the technical name for tru2way) "absolutely critical -- without it, cable is at a severe disadvantage."

Roberts said that Liao's experience on both sides of the consumer electronics and cable equation will be a big advantage for the industry.

"The fact that he would want to come and lead the cable industry from a technical standpoint is quite a vote of confidence in the potential of our networks," Roberts said.

And with the rollout of Data over Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS) 3.0, interactive television applications, wireless broadband, advanced advertising platforms and the like, the industry needs not only a good technologist, but a strong technology leader as well.

"Paul has been a leader and he has real credibility with the Tony Werner's [Comcast CTO] and [Time Warner Cable CTO] Mike LaJoie's of the world who have worked with him and like him a lot. We got lucky that we have somebody who is not one of the cable operators but has a lot of points of view of how cable has to grow and evolve to compete and innovate faster and actually get better."

In a prepared statement, Liao said he was excited to take on his next challenge.

"I feel extremely honored to be selected to follow in the footsteps of Dick Green," Liao said in a statement. "Over the years, I have watched CableLabs create a continuous string of successes and seen it grow in prestige under his leadership. It's an exciting time to be joining CableLabs and I look forward to being a part of the Cable industry and to contributing to the industry's technical future."

In a statement Green said he will work with Liao during the transition period, noting the Panasonic executive "brings new vision and expertise to CableLabs and to the industry. We are all looking forward to having him on board."

Under Green's leadership, and working with its members, CableLabs has established the DOCSIS program for high-speed Internet access. It also has established common specifications to enable cable operators to deliver digital voice services to consumers. Combined, these two programs have resulted in more than $22 billion in annual revenue for cable operators.

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