Light Reading

Ex-Cablevision COO Becomes Charter CEO

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

It didn't take Tom Rutledge long to find a landing spot.

On Monday, just four days after resigning as COO of Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Rutledge, 58, was named president and CEO of Charter Communications Inc. He will succeed Michael Lovett, who announced in October his intentions to step down as the top guy at Charter by April 30 at the latest. (See Cablevision COO Resigns and Charter Names New CEO .)

Rutledge was rumored as a possible successor to Lovett the moment he announced plans to leave Cablevision. He'll take the helm of St. Louis-based Charter on Feb. 13, when he will also become a member of the Charter board of directors. Lovett will stay on until Feb. 12 to help with the transition.

Why this matters
Charter gets one of the most well-regarded executives and visionaries in the cable industry. At Cablevision, Rutledge helped champion the MSO's deployment of several advanced technologies and strategies, including its network DVR, its aggressive rollout of Wi-Fi, a live TV streaming app for the iPad and a service that can relay over-the-top video content from PCs to traditional set-top boxes.

With Rutledge's future now known, speculation will simmer down about whether the 34-year cable vet's departure meant Cablevision was thinking about selling itself or going private. As for Charter, which emerged from bankruptcy in November 2009, the addition of Rutledge likely indicates that the MSO is positioning itself for the long haul rather than sprucing itself up for a sale. (See What's Next for Cablevision? and Charter Leaves Chapter 11 .)

For cable hacks, this also means we're in for some entertaining Charter earnings calls next year, because Rutledge is known for going a bit off-script and providing actual news about the company he's operating.

For more
Read more about Charter's CEO search and Rutledge's recent legacy at Cablevision.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:04 PM
re: Ex-Cablevision COO Becomes Charter CEO

In cast you're keeping score, Cablevision has 3.26M video subs and Charter has 4.13 million video subs.

Any one willing to guess when Charter will deploy its version of the network DVR? I give them until next fall. JB

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:02 PM
re: Ex-Cablevision COO Becomes Charter CEO

ISI Group's Vijay Jayant points out in a note issued this morning that  Rutledge will have his work cut out for him at Charter. It's less densly clustered (operating in 25 states) with an "embarrassingly low" video penetration of  35% of homes passed, lagging the field, and its voice and data metrics aren't all that great either.

"Yet given Mr. Rutledge's decision to take on the "Charter Challenge" - in one of the toughest cities in the US, mind you - is indicative to us that at 58 years old, he's got plenty of fight in him," the analyst added..  JB

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:01 PM
re: Ex-Cablevision COO Becomes Charter CEO

Rutledge may have his work cut out for him as Jayant says, but if analysts such as Bernstein Research are correct, coaxing more growth out of CVC would have been no cake walk either. In addition to N-DVR, I'd keep an eye out for a la carte and Netflix.

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:46:00 PM
re: Ex-Cablevision COO Becomes Charter CEO

right, i think the point is that Cablevision's already exhausted its growth potential from an organic standpoint, whereas Charter has plenty to go after... and Rutledge knows a bit about how to maximize that , though it will be a much different kind of challenge at Charter. JB

User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 4:45:59 PM
re: Ex-Cablevision COO Becomes Charter CEO

Charter is a challenge, which is why I was a bit surprised about Rutledge's move, but he is first and foremost an operations guy and he is no stranger to disparate cable operations. There could be upside through improvements in Charter's operations and efficiency. As for new products, my bet is he'll start by looking to get more out of existing product lines such as business services.            


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