Meet the CTOs in cable: Charter’s Jim Blackley

Charter’s Jim Blackley

This story is part of a broader Meet the CTOs feature that introduces all of the major network operator CTOs across the wireless, telecom and cable industries. To read about top network CTOs from other companies, click here.

Who he is: Jim Blackley, executive VP of engineering and IT for Charter Communications, is a 16-year Cablevision technology veteran who transitioned to Charter in 2012 along with Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge. He has been an instrumental force in the four-year transformation of Charter into the unified, cloud-based Spectrum offering the company presents today. Jay Rolls actually has the title of Charter CTO, but Blackly is the company’s top tech exec. According to Charter, Blackley oversees the company’s product, operations and network operations teams. He’s internally credited with innovations including Charter’s cloud-based Spectrum Guide video system, as well as the Solo DB, which among other benefits, has allowed the MSO to become less dependent on outside billing system vendors. He’s also credited with leading the creation of the downloadable conditional access scheme (DCAS) behind Charter’s “World Box” set-top initiative.

Where he is: Blackley reports directly to Rutledge out of Charter’s Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters. Rolls as well as all Charter engineering and technology teams, including those under the Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks banners that are currently being integrated into the Charter fold, report to Blackley.

What he’s doing: Although Blackley and his team have nearly completed a four-year effort to convert Charter’s legacy footprint into a digital, cloud-based Spectrum Guide video system, there’s now plenty more work to do with the integration of the Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks footprints that Charter recently acquired. This integration plan includes the further deployment of Charter’s World Box 2.0 initiative, the hybrid QAM/IP video platform that Blackley oversees. Initially announced in early 2015, World Box was built to enable traditional and cloud-based user interfaces, content, and new video features for Charter subscribers.

With the updated 2.0 version of World Box, Charter says it will expand on its current downloadable conditional access (DCAS) capabilities, allowing it to work on legacy CAS systems across Charter's newly expanded footprint. This is made possible through the built-in security processing capabilities now available in generic chipsets, Charter said, adding that World Box 2.0 will also offer better graphics capabilities and more processing power.

Additionally, Blackley is leading Charter’s technological advancement into the wireless business. This not only includes mobile products that relate to Charter’s MVNO deal with Verizon, but also millimeter wave plans the company recently disclosed to the FCC. “I think 5G-type technologies or millimeter wave technologies or small cell, high-frequency, high-capacity, low-latency wireless networks are products that we will develop,” Charter Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said during the MSO’s third-quarter earnings call with investment analysts. “They may or may not be connected to an MVNO relationship or a mobility relationship. I think that there are opportunities to create wireless drops in certain cases, so direct wireless connections that mimic a physical connection, to connect malls and other things in the enterprise space and buildings that are not contiguous or have big parking lots or, in some cases, low density areas, it might make some sense.”

Thus, Blackley and his team have their work cut out for them as they work to enhance Charter’s overall network, integrate the TWC and BHN footprints, and expand into wireless and other technologies.