In a call with CED to discuss the hire, Comcast CEO and Chairman Brian Roberts was genuinely enthused about the announcement that Paul Liao had been hired to run the show at CableLabs (story here).

Roberts, who is also CableLabs’ board chairman, said that Liao, who is wrapping up a few final projects at Panasonic, brings a blend of intellectual, technological and real-world experience to his new position as CableLabs’ second president and CEO.

Roberts said the cable industry needs to work well in other ecosystems and cited iPhones, IP and wireless devices as areas where cable needs to move beyond its traditional boundaries. As Panasonic North America’s vice president and CTO, Liao’s hiring meant that CableLabs’ board wanted to look beyond traditional cable executives in order to broaden its horizons.

Liao has had one foot planted in the cable world through Panasonic’s work with tru2way, most notably with Comcast. He also wore his cable hat at events such as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and last year’s Cable Show in New Orleans. In New Orleans, he shared the stage with the man he is replacing at CableLabs, Dick Green, during a pre-conference event on tru2way (story here)

Roberts said CableLabs’ search committee wanted to recommit to CableLabs being a CEO-led organization during the search for Green’s replacement instead of installing someone with a purely technical background.

Green excelled at bringing thought leaders into one room and then herding them toward a common goal at CableLabs, which is a precedent that Roberts expects Liao to continue.

CableLabs’ search committee seemed to focus on some of the same attributes that the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) used in its hiring of Mark Dzuban as its new president and CEO in January. Both Dzuban and Liao are well-educated technologists who have experience in getting products deployed in the field.

The contrast between Dzuban and his predecessor, John Clark, was more marked than the transition between Green and Liao, and Liao will have the advantage of Green’s presence at the start of his tenure.

Green’s contract expires in December, which will end his formal run as CableLabs' only president and CEO since its founding in 1988. His gracious presence, knowledge and leadership will be missed, but Roberts said that Green felt honored that Liao is continuing his work at CableLabs. 

By selecting Dzuban and Liao, CableLabs and the SCTE are gearing up for the networks of the future instead of just guarding what worked well in the past. We talk about future-proofing networks in the cable industry; CableLabs and the SCTE have future-proofed their organizations with their additions of Liao and Dzuban.

Lastly, a big thanks to CableLabs' Mike Schwartz for setting up interviews on short notice with Liao and Roberts.