A first-generation American whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Scotland after World War II, Jim Blackley joined the U.S. Navy after high school in 1974. A military aptitude test revealed his natural affinity for engineering. He entered a two-year training program in Tennessee, and then went to work on a Grumman stealth plane. After completing his military service and computer programming school, he found his first private-sector technology job and attended night school to earn his degree.
Blackley joined Royal Insurance and changed employers six times over the following years, working with companies in the finance and utility sectors. “There’s a lot of value in being an IT vagabond and chasing the next technology,” he said. Specializing in billing and workforce management systems, he said, “I was preparing for a life in cable that I didn’t know I was preparing for.”
After wandering for nearly 20 years, Blackley found a place to call home in 1996 at Cablevision Systems in Bethpage, New York, where his background was needed. The company was looking into building what it referred to as its own MOAB — Mother of All Billing Systems. Blackley convinced Cablevision management that rather than build a billing system from scratch, it would make more sense to modernize and automate the components already being used.
Chasing technology was no longer necessary at Cablevision. “I didn’t have to go anywhere,” he said. “New jobs and new technologies kept coming to me.”
He was excited to be part of the company’s transition to all-digital, and in his 16 years at Cablevision, was instrumental in a number of groundbreaking industry deployments including outside-the-home WiFi service and the first downloadable security system for set-top boxes. In cable, Blackley said, he was now part of an industry that was changing the world.
In 2012 Blackley left his position heading Cablevision’s engineering and technology to become Charter’s executive VP, engineering and information technology. Under his leadership, Charter has been at the forefront of introducing innovative video, internet and voice solutions using advanced technology. He led the MSO’s integration of Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and legacy Charter systems into a single, virtual infrastructure and supervised the company’s technological transformation. Blackley was instrumental in the launch of the Spectrum TV App, Spectrum Mobile, the cloud-based Spectrum Guide, Spectrum Internet Gig, and Charter’s move to an all-digital network.
Blackley’s work on downloadable conditional access software enabled the development of Charter’s WorldBox. He was honored with the Vanguard Award for Science and Technology in 2015 by NCTA–The Internet and Television Association.
Blackley spends his leisure time golfing, reading and doing “anything on water, either on boats, paddleboards, surfboards or in scuba gear.” As he looks toward retirement, he advises those entering the industry to keep their eye on the horizon. “Technology is coming fast and furious, and we’re uniquely positioned to provide the technology platform that will power this country for a very long time,” he said.
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