Comcast’s Werner Earns Emmy Honor

The National Cable Television Association Vanguard Award, a Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame induction, inclusion in the 2015 Cable Hall of Fame—name an industry honor, and you’ll likely find it in Tony Werner’s trophy case.

On Jan. 7 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, he’ll receive another: The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) will hand Werner its Lifetime Achievement Award during the 68th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmys. He joins an estimable roster of past honorees that includes Charles “Chuck” Pagano, former executive VP and CTO of ESPN, and Kazuo Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Corp.

“I’m honored and humbled to receive the Emmy for Lifetime Achievement,” said Werner, president of technology and product for Comcast Cable. “I will be accepting the award on behalf of an incredible industry and all of my wonderful colleagues who have worked tirelessly to make it what it is today.”

Robert Seidel, VP of CBS Engineering and Advanced Technology and chair of the NATAS Engineering Achievement Committee, said the choice of Werner for the award was an easy one. In the last 35 years, Werner has overseen major technological shifts in the industry, not just at Comcast, but at Liberty Global, AT&T and Rogers Communications.

“The National Academy’s Technology and Engineering Achievement Committee is…especially happy to honor Tony Werner [with] our Lifetime Achievement Award for his distinguished career,” Seidel said. “Tony has been one of the leaders in the digital revolution in video, voice and data services in our industry, delivering world-class products to consumers and companies alike.”

Werner was upped to his current role in May 2016, having previously served as CTO and executive VP for Comcast. During his tenure at the company, he has overseen Comcast’s move to DOCSIS 3.0 and the launch of the interactive TV X1 Entertainment Operating System. Second-screen apps, software development, cloud systems, research and development and voice remote control have also commanded the attention of Werner and his team.

Werner first joined Comcast as CTO in late 2006, coming over from Liberty Global, where he spent six years serving as both CTO and executive VP, leading Liberty’s worldwide video, voice and data services efforts. (Before that, he served in the same CTO role with AT&T.) When Comcast first nabbed Werner, then-Comcast president Steve Burke said he knew his company had added someone special: “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,” Burke said at the time. “He has unparalleled expertise and insights into the cable industry’s future network needs.”

During his Comcast tenure, Werner has been front and center in some the company’s most newsworthy tech decisions, including overseeing the successful completion of “Project Cavalry,” the $500 million analog reclamation project that had Comcast converting every customer to digital-only set-tops.

When that endeavor wrapped up, Neil Smit, current CEO of Comcast Cable, said at the time: “The ability to mobilize a big organization to realize a brand-new idea is a hallmark of Werner’s professional style. Tony is really talented at projecting future trends and then figuring out how to bring them to life. He develops technology solutions that address both present and future business needs, and he has an ability to sniff out exciting new technology developments and sift through the winners and losers very effectively.”

And today—as if leading the daily technology endeavors of America’s No. 1 cable company isn’t enough—Werner also serves as chairman of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and its global extension, the International Society of Broadband Experts (ISBE). He was re-elected to that position last September.

Along with honoring Werner, the Academy is rewarding Technology & Engineering Emmys to several companies at CES, specifically for their work in the broadcast space. Highlights of those honors follow:

• If you ask the international Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET; first founded as the Society of Telegraph Engineers), they will argue that the first TV camera of any sort was invented all the way back in 1876. At CES, 141 years later, NATAS is honoring IET, Telcon (now Alcatel Lucent-Submarine Networks) and Siemens for their work on the “Concept of Op-to-Electric Transduction,” or the “photoelectric” basis for all camera technology used today.

“The discovery and invention of the first television camera has been pivotal to the history of the television industry and transformational in terms of human communication,” said Tim Hamer, a director with IET.

• The IP-based DreamCatcher production and instant replay system from Evertz; the multi-cam Espio Zoom software offering from EVS; and FOR-A’s FT-ONE cameras and ZE-ONE 4K extraction system are all being honored. NATAS is recognizing the products for what it terms “Live Production Technology Beyond HD to Achieve Non-Interpolated Video for Instant Replay.”

The trio “have feature sets that provide a dynamic system that scales to meet the needs of the game and improve the accuracy and time per review to enhance both the home viewer and in-stadium fan experience. The systems have been used by a wide variety of broadcasters and stadiums,” the Academy said in announcing the award.

Laurent Petit, EVS VP of product, said the Espio Zoom’s ability to work with any formats and content type, allowing operators to create high-frame-rate replays and zoom in on replays instantly, makes the solution unique.

“We’re living in a time of realism and intensity. Tools like Espio Zoom are critical to making the viewing experience—whether from a stadium seat or living room sofa—as exciting as possible,” Petit said.

• In 1998, with the internet blossoming, a group of broadcast news developers banded together to form the Media Object Server (MOS) group, with the intent of letting journalists access most any type of media content (from video to stills to audio) on most any hardware.

Today, hundreds of broadcast industry software and hardware vendors are part of MOS. And now those behind the open protocol solution are being honored by NATAS at CES. “The distributed nature of MOS allows multiple machines to simultaneously communicate with each other, in some cases over very long distances beyond studio walls,” NATAS said.

“This has allowed vendors to accelerate development of multiple generations of increasingly complex and interconnected equipment specifically suited to news production.”

• Tech firms Invidi Technologies and Visible World are both being honored for their work in deploying “targeted linear advertising technology at the headend, household and individual viewer level,” NATAS said. “Both Invidi and Visible World…have built viable, growing businesses that have been or are being deployed by many [multichannel video programming distributors], including several of the largest.

“Both meet the dual criteria of having made significant technical innovations and having an impact on TV (essentially creating the infrastructure needed for the targeted linear advertising ecosystem).”

In late November, AT&T, Dish Network and international ad agency holding company WPP banded together to acquire Invidi.

• Everyone knows about fiber optic cable. Not everyone knows who invented and first deployed it. NATAS will clear that up at CES, honoring both Corning and Bell Labs/Western Electric (now OFS) for their roles in the adoption of fiber.

“Today’s fiber-rich broadcast networks help to enable the flawless, on-demand delivery of increasingly higher resolution television programs while also containing the bandwidth needed to deliver whatever incredible offerings the broadcast television industry will create in the future,” said Timothy F. Murray, CEO and chairman of OFS.

• NATAS is also giving a nod to IBM Corp. and postproduction house Laser Pacific (now owned by Technicolor) for helping automate supply-chain solutions for broadcast content.

“The most notable impact of this technology in the production of television was that it reduced the assembly process time from 12-24 hours of work to an evening’s work of 3-5 hours, which saved time and creative resources,” NATAS said in a statement.