Denver— Tony Werner, currently senior vice president and chief technology officer at Liberty Global, will shift into the top technical spot for Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, next month, succeeding outgoing CTO Dave Fellows.
It is a decision Werner said he labored over for months. “It is incredibly hard for me to leave Liberty,” he said last week. “But the attraction and challenge of working for the largest MSO in the world is something I can’t pass up at this point in my career.”
Werner has formerly been CTO at AT&T Broadband, Qwest Communications International, Tele-Communications Inc. and equipment manufacturer Aurora Networks. He is widely acknowledged as a clear and thorough communicator, with strong technical and financial bearings.
The bombshell news on Dec. 6 that cable elder John Malone would take control of direct-broadcast satellite leader DirecTV had nothing to do with Werner’s decision to exit. “Liberty Global and Liberty Media are really separate companies,” Werner said.
Currently, Werner oversees technical strategy and direction for Liberty Global’s systems, which serve 13.1 million customers in Japan, Puerto Rico, Chile and 11 European countries.
That work, particularly in the Pacific Rim, makes him acutely aware of the competitive trends surrounding fiber-to-the-home deployments — something Verizon Communications serves up to cable operators on a daily basis. Werner’s brief but illuminating tenure as chief technical officer for Qwest in 2001 is also likely to provide an actionable competitive perspective.
At Comcast, Werner will guide the company’s long-term technology strategy, including next-generation architectures, related consumer technologies, advertising methods, network standards and technical standards.
The transition between CTOs is more a baton passing than a flash cut, both men said.
“One of the great things about Tony being my successor is, no one can argue with it,” Fellows said, adding: “There’s no one who thinks they’re better than Tony. I don’t think I’m better than Tony.”
Werner and Fellows share a long history of technical collaboration through CableLabs and other industry activities. “We’ve worked together a lot over the years — defining network architectures, developing powering architectures for telephone service,” Werner said. “I’ve grown to have a deep respect for Dave’s intellectual capacity over the past several years, so much so that I asked him to serve on LGI’s technology board,” a group that meets twice a year to review and discuss technical strategy.
In today’s world of massive transitions — analog to digital, hardware to software, bundle to cross-platform — finding a CTO with the right breadth and depth of knowledge isn’t easy. Comcast’s search began in June, when Fellows announced his transition to “executive fellow” for the No. 1 U.S. cable operator.
Fellows’s stated reason for the transition was the five years of weekly commutes from Boston, where he lives, to Philadelphia, where Comcast is headquartered. “The time has come to transition into a new relationship with Comcast,” he said at the time.
At Comcast, Fellows is most widely known for his work in preparing the company for cross-platform services, under a program code-named “Bedrock,” and for building a national fiber backbone to move voice, video and data services to local systems.
His contributions to the overall cable technological community span 30 years, including credit for one of the first cable modem installations in the nation.
Werner, who turned 50 in November, lives in the Denver area with Laurel, his wife, whom he married in August, and his daughter, Cara. He finishes up at Liberty Global on Dec. 29, and begins at Comcast on January 2.
Fellows will remain involved via a consulting arrangement.
“Tony’s wealth of engineering and technology experience will be crucial as we leverage our fiber network and IP technology to deploy advanced, integrated services,” Comcast chief operating officer and cable-unit president Steve Burke said in a statement. “He has an unparalleled expertise and insights into the cable industry’s future network needs.”