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By: Gigaom
December 19, 2011 at 20:09 PM EST
Can Tom Rutledge bring innovation back to Charter?
Charter Communications picked up one of the hardest-working men in the cable business when it named Tom Rutledge as its CEO. And it couldn't have come at a more critical time, as Charter faces consumer demand for TV Everywhere and increasing competition from streaming services.

Charter Communications picked up one of the hardest-working men in the cable business Monday, announcing the appointment of Tom Rutledge as its CEO just a few days after he stepped down from his role as COO of Cablevision. Rutledge will replace Charter’s interim CEO Mike Lovett, who took over after former CEO Neil Smit left the operator to run Comcast’s cable business.

The appointment comes at a critical time for Charter, as it faces consumer demand for TV Everywhere and increasing competition from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. While Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Cablevision have aggressively rolled out TV Everywhere services, Charter has been a bit behind the rest of the pack. Bringing on Rutledge should improve the product rollout at a cable operator that is lacking in some serious innovation.

The new chief executive has a reputation for creating new products. In a boon for its subscribers, Cablevision aggressively rolled out free Wi-Fi hotspots for subscribers throughout its home market, for instance. But not all of the new innovative products were popular.

During his tenure, Cablevision introduced a few new features that angered its programming partners. For instance, it was taken to court over plans to launch network DVR services, a case that it eventually won. Cablevision is now (slowly) making those services available to customers in certain parts of its network footprint.

More recently, Cablevision released an iPad app which allowed for live streaming of all a subscriber’s cable channels as long as they were connected to their home network. That move was controversial and unprecedented among other cable operators, which are largely making sure they have rights to network content before making live streams available, even within the home.

In contrast, Cablevision’s attitude was somewhat antagonistic from a rights perspective: It believed the iPad wasn’t another device that deserved its own set of rights — it was just another screen that subscribers should be able to watch their favorite channels on.

So here’s what Charter customers and investors get to look forward to: a really smart, hard-charging exec who pushes the limits of product innovation. For all those who live in a Charter neighborhood, that’s really good news.

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