A Q&A with new SeaChange President Yvette Kanouff

Yvette Kanouff rose through the engineering ranks to be named president of video-on-demand technology vendor SeaChange International. While this is not necessarily an unusual route to the top in a technology-driven industry, it is also not the worn path most executives follow to get there. FierceCable recently sat down for a brief Q&A with Kanouff to learn more about her aspirations for herself and the company.

FierceCable: Other engineers who moved from their engineering comfort zones to different levels of, frankly, marketing have remarked on the difficulty of the shift. Wouldn't life be simpler if you had just stayed working with engineering issues?

Yvette Kanouff: It's always simpler when you don't take on as much. At the same time, you shouldn't shy away from something that's important. Given where I came from with SeaChange and where I've taken the company in creating the VoD product, creating the software, I think it's logical for me to accept this and take us to the next level where we need to go.

FC: Most recently you were chief strategy officer. How do those responsibilities jive with your new role as president?

YK: I'm not dropping strategy; I'm not dropping the product road map and the area we go but more how we take that package and move it forward. Also, not taking on the COO role and operational efficiency role will let me continue to focus on the industry and moving forward.

FC: You moved through the engineering ranks your entire career at SeaChange and yet you were never CTO. Why?

YK: I was always on the CTO panels and I did so much work very closely with the CTOs that I think to some extent the title between CTO and CS was a little confusing. It comes back down to being a real technology company. I've really been defining where our product road map is heading and what things we should invest in internally as well as externally.

FC: OK, so there's the opening. What is the product road map at SeaChange?

YK: We definitely play in the software infrastructure. You look at all the different areas that are growing--advanced advertising, multiple screen streaming, search engines and recommendation engines over video--so there are so many companies for us to work with. We see our core strength in building the infrastructure to enable all those things.

FC: You're going to have to do it with less. At the same time the company announced your promotion it said it would be laying off about 4 percent of the workforce. How's this affect your vision?

YK: The economy has affected everybody in certain ways. The television market, the worldwide growth of television has been affected; the growth of advanced services.

FC: There's a hint in that statement that SeaChange is not totally dedicated to cable. Should we be thinking of you as a cable company?

YK: When you say cable company it sounds like it's a big competitive environment. The world used to be pretty simple: there was a cable company, a telephone company, digital satellite and you had to pick a side. We love this industry and I remain very, very loyal to it but I think I owe it to this industry to help blur those lines and help the cable companies become something more than they've been in the past.

FC: And where would you be leading them?

YK: I think it's going to be video-everywhere, take it with you. It's going to be about home gateways, it's going to be about so many things that blur the line about what used to be television video.

FC: Like 3D TV?

YK: We had some MPEG-4 3D content running at the last (SCTE) Cable Tec Expo. It looks pretty good. The biggest concern about 3D in general is that you have to wear glasses.

FC: Speaking of SCTE, you could be the first president of a major firm who also held a position of authority as chairman at SCTE. Will that help or hurt you as a non-engineering executive?

YK: That's really core to who I am and what's really important to me. Having been so closely involved with SCTE, I will continue to have my cares and my heart there.