Tom Rutledge

Tom Rutledge, retired CEO of Charter Communications

Interview Date: July 10, 2023
Interviewer: Stewart Schley

Interview Transcript

STEWART SCHLEY: Hello there, greetings, ahoy. I am Stewart Schley on behalf of Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center, have a special 60 minutes in front of me because in the middle of summer 2023 I’m in Stamford, Connecticut with the just recently retired CEO of Charter Communications, Tom Rutledge, Executive Chairman, and a man who has been at the helm of three of the most preeminent and influential cable companies of the modern generation. So Tom, to sit with us for 60 minutes is — we’ve been waiting to do this a long time. I really appreciate it.

TOM RUTLEDGE: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.

SCHLEY: I’m going to start by tossing at you a — this is unrehearsed so Tom’s not ready for this but —

RUTLEDGE: That’s right.

SCHLEY: I had a chance to visit with a colleague of yours, Tom Adams, recently and he recounted an interesting story. He said somewhere in your possession, might be a garage or a basement or a closet, you still have some of the gear you used to use I think in 1972 to shimmy up a utility pole. Now, he might have been making this up because it’s a very good story. Do you have that stuff?

RUTLEDGE: I do actually. I still have my lineman’s belt which I have in a museum case now in my office at home which my wife did because I had it in the garage for 35, 40 years with my lineman boots and she thought — and the animals and everything had been on it, but at some point, she had it cleaned up and put into this case and gave it to me as a memento of our early years together.

SCHLEY: And a memento of the badge of honor. The real cable guys have climbed poles, right? And this was — what were you doing up a utility pole in 1972?

RUTLEDGE: Well, I — in 1972 — so I graduated from high school in ’71 and my ambition was to go see the world so I hitchhiked around the United States, I hitchhiked around Europe, Middle East, and I was working at different places and my father got sick, and died actually, and I came back home from — I was working at a shipyard in Virginia and I came home. And he knew a guy who was starting up, actually doing the insurance for a startup cable company. And he introduced me and I was one of the first employees of a company called Eastern Telecom in Mount Lebanon, Pennsylvania. My first job was grunt which is the ground man, not the noise you make. And my job was to put taps together, put the plate and the tap together. They’re numerically connected. You have different values as you move down the line away from the source of the amplification, and throw them up to the lineman. But within two weeks I was a lineman. And so I was splicing. And then as soon as we activated the plant most of my work was installation. Then I started going to college and I went on and off and I worked that job on and off through college not with the expectation that I was going to be a cable guy. I studied economics which is what I was interested in. I saw a job in the paper for a manager, a little tiny ad, and I called them and went to an interview and got hired by ATC in 1977 as a meeting trainee. And they were building the first management core of hires with a programmatic effort to turn the cable industry into a managed industry.

SCHLEY: ATC, a subsidiary of Time Inc., is that correct?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, Time Inc. owned I think at that point 20% of ATC. And then in ’78 they bought it all.

SCHLEY: And this — the era you’re describing would have been, what, a 12-channel cable system?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, well, we had a state of the art dual 12 channel cable system that we were building in Mount Lebanon to — as a showcase to potentially get the Pittsburgh franchise which Mount Lebanon is a suburb of Pittsburgh. And so it was two 12 channel cable systems side by side with a switch on the back of the TV that we installed and we would switch from one cable to the other. And so we couldn’t fill it. All we had was local off-air channels. There was no pay TV then, no HBO, no microwave at that point. We had distant signals from Johnstown and Steubenville, Ohio and —

SCHLEY: What do you suppose somebody paid per month for that?

RUTLEDGE: Three dollars.

SCHLEY: What did you learn in that early role when you got the manager gig, for instance?

RUTLEDGE: As a manager?

SCHLEY: About the cable business at large.

RUTLEDGE: Well, it was really about connecting people and having them be satisfied with the service. And so you had direct — I found that the most interesting thing to me was how people’s eyes lit up when they got a good signal. You know, Pittsburgh is a hilly terrain and so on the tops of hills you’ve got great reception and in the valleys, you have poor reception. So most of the customer base was still reception driven. A TV like a Sony Trinitron looked beautiful with a great signal and you’d see people light up. And then obviously servicing them was the main aspect of what you had to do. You had to operate this physical infrastructure. I mean it’s still the same. Nothing has changed. I mean technology has changed, but the core principles of building a network, making it work, making the maintenance high quality, making the service high quality, taking care of customers, it hasn’t changed at all.

SCHLEY: I wrote down your quote, it was really about connecting people and delivering great service. So fast forward to 2023.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, it’s still about that.

SCHLEY: It’s the same business. What was going on in terms of evolution of cable in these early years when you were working for ATC programming-wise and capability-wise?

RUTLEDGE: When I first joined ATC the cable industry knew that it was going to have satellite technology. It had launched satellite technology. So when I started in ’72 it wasn’t — you know, when I was a tech, but when I got into the managerial side out of college the industry was aware of satellite technology. HBO had been launched and it looked like the urban areas could be served and that people would buy the service not just for reception but for multichannel television. And so what happened was all the cities who controlled the franchising process by law, in general, when through a process of granting franchises. So my early years were operating a cable system in the day, building new franchises physically in the day, you know, constructing cable systems, and at night going to city council meetings trying to persuade communities to give us the franchise to build the service.

SCHLEY: It was a transformative time though and what you alluded to, the beginnings of this new wave of programming. So cable is now something beyond just retransmitting local TV channels.

RUTLEDGE: That’s right.

SCHLEY: Did you like the business from the very start? Did it appeal to you as a career?

RUTLEDGE: I did. I liked — as I said, it’s a communications service. Everybody’s interested in it. And so everybody wanted to know how it worked and where it was going. So it was a — socially it was an interesting place to be and culturally. And I found that gratifying. And it was a big job and the nation was unwired and I had lots of high expectations about the possibility of the technology and the deployment of the technology and what it would generate in terms of opportunity. And all those realities came to pass.

SCHLEY: And Tom, if you would take us through the career progression. And you talked about the trifold, the city council meetings, building new franchises, operating the system. Were you rising kind of in the ranks internally then or what was happening in your career?

RUTLEDGE: You know, yeah, we — it seemed like a younger business then and it was and obviously a lot of people were about the same age because it was a new business. I mean cable had been around since the late ’40s and I actually met some of the original guys like Milton Shapp who built the first amplifiers and created the Jerrold Corporation, Milton Jerrold Shapp. So I knew the entrepreneurial — the real pioneers of the business and, like I said, I was hired as the first management class where people were hired to become managers with the expectation that the business would grow large and become a scale business. And my — I rose rapidly. You know, I was a manager trainee and I was an assistant manager in Levittown and then I was a general manager in Delaware county which was a new build which is the suburban Philadelphia area. So lots of communities around Philadelphia. And so at 27 I was general manager of a cable company with more than 100 employees, construction people and — but a relatively small business compared to Charter. I mean I think my first cable system, Mount Lebanon Cable, ended up with 3,000 customers. My second cable system, Valley Cable in Pittsburgh, had 8,000. Levittown, Pennsylvania had 11,000 and Delaware county got to 25,000. The next system after that I was in was Albany and it had 50,000. So I remember in 1978 they were talking to me about my career and where I might go and somebody — there was a general manager named — or a regional manager named Earl Haig and he said, “Hey, would you want to go to Reading? We have 40,000 customers. It’s dense. Or would you rather go to Orlando where we have 35,000 customers but lots of upside?” And so it’s kind of interesting when you think back on that, Reading still has 40,000 customers and it’s a reception market outside of Philadelphia and Orlando has over a million. So the industry grew and it was a very — it was an industry in transition and we had assets that were in the old style, reception, like Reading and Franklin, Pennsylvania and Salem, New Jersey, and then we had — and even Levittown to some extent. And then we had the new markets where satellite was really — satellite television was driving the business going forward.

SCHLEY: My $3 bill is now $8, $9, $10 at this point?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, by the time — well, no. By the time I got to Albany, so the fourth place I worked, I remember trying to get the rate up to $7.50 — I guess $8.50. I was taking it from $7.50 to $8.50.

SCHLEY: And were we regulated at the local —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, we were regulated at the local level. So you had to go to every town. And I would go with, “I’ll get you CNN, ESPN, and FNC” which is the precursor to CNBC. It was called the Financial News Channel. And the three channels for a buck if you would give me —

SCHLEY: That was the bargain?


SCHLEY: And what — sort of penetration-wise in the late ’70s was this country — were 25% of households subscribing to cable television or were we past that mark?

RUTLEDGE: I think when I started in cable there were about 11 million customers and they were all in reception areas. So there might have been about 100 million homes then.

SCHLEY: In the US?

RUTLEDGE: So 11% penetration, but there was no infrastructure in front of most of the homes because —

SCHLEY: You weren’t passing a lot of — most of the homes.

RUTLEDGE: No. And so in the places where cable existed penetrations were quite high. So penetration in Albany was 60%. When I was in Portland, Maine penetrations were in the high 70s. And yet if you were in a big urban area, Dallas, with the new construction, a flat-as-a-pancake kind of market with good off-air reception, penetrations were quite low.

SCHLEY: I’m curious, Tom, what were you learning about management, managing people, running organizations, at this kind of early stage of professional life?

RUTLEDGE: You know, I was always part of the team and I knew what the work was and I always thought that everybody should be involved in understanding what our mission was and have high expectations for themselves and for what the business could be, and to be proud of what their business is and what it does for people and to try to lead by example and to use my own work ethic as a way to inculcate other people into that view. But — and to respect the talents of everybody. You know, everybody’s contributing to this systemic business, and it is systemic, meaning there are not components of it that can work without other components. It all has to work together. And when you think about what Charter is today, or Comcast or any of the big cable companies, and they’re all big relative to these little businesses I was talking about then, I mean the smallest cable MSO today is way bigger than that, but the systemic nature of the business mandates that you have an understanding of all the implications against the service operation in every action you do. And so people have to understand that.

SCHLEY: Technical, customer service, marketing, the whole —

RUTLEDGE: Right, they’re all integrated.

SCHLEY: Bottled up into —

RUTLEDGE: That’s right. They’re all the same thing.

SCHLEY: And I want to interject. You’ve talked before about a concept for cable television or cable communications at large. You use this analogy of a three-legged stool. Tell me what that’s all about.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, that’s my — that was part of my shtick. You know, part of management is —

SCHLEY: Having a shtick?

RUTLEDGE: A shtick. You have to have a point of view, you have to say what it is, you have to tell people what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you told them, right? And so there’s a certain cadence to management that you just have to do. It’s like being a politician to some extent. You just have to keep saying the same thing over and over again because it’s true. There are just fundamentals that have to be done. And so the three legs of the stool I started using somewhere along in my path as a way of talking about the company and that you had to have all three legs or you fell over. And one was the service operation, taking care of customers and how you transact with customers. That’s a critical element of the business. The other critical element is the product itself, what is it that you sell, which includes the service, but it also includes what networks you carry, what the speeds and capabilities are, and what the reliability is of the infrastructure product that you’re putting in the house, the communications product. And then finally the other — the third leg, and just as important as the other two, is your relationship with the communities we serve. And what I mean by that is it goes down to do you understand where you are in the marketplace, do you know the community, do you understand the needs of the community, are you responsive to the community, and how does then impact your relationship to the governments at every level? And it’s your government relations process which is really a subset of the whole relationship with the community.

SCHLEY: It really is a local business, really? I mean at the heart of cable.

RUTLEDGE: You know, it’s done by local people. The networks are physical networks in physical geographies and the people that live in those geographies take care of the networks and take care of the customer facing effort. So yeah, most of the people that are in the business and most of the people working in the network are local in the sense that you can only drive so far and you can only manage so much plant as an individual and so you’re local.

SCHLEY: Did you feel that was sort of a, not a secret weapon, but an advantage for this business over let’s say satellite television or some of the more holistically footprinted businesses? You know?

RUTLEDGE: It’s an advantage and it’s a problem too. It’s like everything. You have to embrace the reality of what your business and then be good at it. And so localism is an aspect of our business. In fact, when I first joined the industry as a manager we were — shortly after I became a general manager ATC decentralized and the notion of decentralization was that we would create divisions in the local community that reflected the TV market, the DMA, and we put management over the business because television is local. If you think about broadcast TV. And so over the broadcast market and the sports market, which is also local, and the regulatory system for cable was local, so you really need to have a managerial responsibility and ability to execute at the local level was the notion. And we embraced that and I embraced it as a manager. I believed in it completely.

SCHLEY: The decentralization model?

RUTLEDGE: Yes, and I was a division president. You had a lot of authority. You were running a — you had a lot of replication of corporate activity at the local level because we ran intact businesses, but the good thing about it from my own career development point of view was you got to be in a position of sole responsibility at a pretty young age and over a real business.

SCHLEY: Good and bad. I mean it’s either rise or fall.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, you could mess it up and we did in some cases.

SCHLEY: And then please, Tom, talk about that. What was the career path then prior to you joining a second company, Cablevision Systems? Where did you end up with at ATC slash Time Warner Cable?

RUTLEDGE: Well, I ended up as president of Time Warner Cable. So Time Inc. bought ATC and then Time merged with Warner and so Time Warner Cable became the brand. And then we merged with Turner and —

SCHLEY: Yes, you’re taking me back now.

RUTLEDGE: Yes. And so — and you know, Time Inc. had HBO and — which they had bought from Cablevision, from Chuck Dolan. So Time was the big communications company, Time Warner, and I ended up as president of the cable division of Time Warner, Time Warner Cable. And so there was the operating job. And I had been brought in as an operator from the field with the notion that first — my first job was regulatory strategy, corporate job, and that’s because we had just been reregulated.

SCHLEY: This was in the ’92 cable act?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, the ’92 act and I actually developed a sort of a workaround to the act called the Texas twostep which — and I was in Austin at the time and they branded it that way because of my input — was creating deregulated packages with regulated packages. And so I then worked with the FCC and worked on the social contract and as part of our commitment to put fiber optic backbones and upgrade the network into two-way capability we got some rate increases, but we were now regulated at the federal level and still at the local level. So it was a very complex period of time and so I had a background in operations and my job was to teach these decentralized field organizations how to manage the regulatory strategy so that we could grow.

SCHLEY: Pretty complex though.

RUTLEDGE: It was. It was interesting. And what I learned in that process was that it’s a lot different when you’re in charge of an operation and you can make decisions and your decisions stand. When you’re in a sales job trying to sell to 40 divisions and try to convince them, it’s a much softer kind of managerial authority and so you really have to have credibility if you’re going to do that.

SCHLEY: Sure. Two questions about the two-step. Was it unique to Time Warner Cable, the social contract? And B, did it work? Did it do what you wanted to do?

RUTLEDGE: It did work. We created these regulated tiers — unregulated tiers that were extracted from the regulated tier and so we had some pricing power on it. And because you remember the rates were rolled back 17%.

SCHLEY: It was a punishing —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, the stocks collapsed. It was a terrible — I didn’t get a bonus. (laughter) I’m still mad about it 30 years later. But yeah, it was a rough time. And so — and yet we had all this capital intensity. We were still putting tons of —

SCHLEY: Business didn’t get any cheaper to build and to run.

RUTLEDGE: No, it got more expensive because we upgraded the whole built infrastructure. And all the stuff that had been franchised in the ’70s and ’80s got rebuilt in the ’90s.

SCHLEY: Right, more capacity, more channels —

RUTLEDGE: More using of fiber optic backbone. And so we needed revenue to justify the capital investment and we got it, but it — and then we got deregulated again and freed from it, but it took — during the period we were regulated we still had to grow our revenues and we had to do it inside that process, and we did.

SCHLEY: So for example, now you were regulated at a basic underlying package, but you could add what we call tiers of video service on top of that?

RUTLEDGE: Yes. And HBO and products like that were not regulated.

SCHLEY: Right, the premium services.

RUTLEDGE: So it was really the reception service and there were several tiers of regulation and different tranches of regulation that occurred during that period and the rules were rewritten by the FCC during that period too.

SCHLEY: A little bit of a change of heart over time, I think, with Reed Hundt in the FCC at the time.


SCHLEY: But why did more cable companies not adopt — it seems like kind of a brilliant stroke really.

RUTLEDGE: Everybody did a similar thing and they all looked around the industry and saw who was being successful and who wasn’t. So yeah, those ideas tended to get percolated throughout the business. And you know, the industry didn’t compete head-to-head with itself generally except when going after new franchises.

SCHLEY: Key feature of the cable industry, right?

RUTLEDGE: So we always had — it was always a lot of openness and collaboration with ideas between companies that weren’t — not between us and the telephone industry which we were competing with or not between us and the satellite industry, but between us and other regional cable operators. Because most cable, and it’s still to this day —

SCHLEY: You didn’t engage in day-to-day warfare?

RUTLEDGE: They’re still regional companies.

SCHLEY: The other I think economic impact of that era was the onset of satellite television and I think DIRECTV launched in ’94. So here you’re dealing with the two step and adjusting to a new regulatory environment. What were your initial impressions when those commercials for DIRECTV came on? And these are all your channels, these are all the cable industry’s channels, and now —

RUTLEDGE: Part of the regulation was if you were a vertically integrated cable operator you had to sell your programming to anybody else that wants to compete against you. So that was — those were called the program access rules and I guess they’re still in place.

SCHLEY: This is why for instance the Turner channels showed up on DIRECTV?


SCHLEY: One of the reasons, okay. But what did you think? Was it scary?

RUTLEDGE: Yes, but not — I always thought that we had a much better infrastructure than satellite and that ultimately communications would be two-way and digital and the advent of satellite TV also was the advent of digital television. And you remember —

SCHLEY: Right, important breakthrough.

RUTLEDGE: — there was a headend in the sky concept. We had a disadvantage in that we had legacy analog platforms and we had to digitize them and it was expensive. And we had an existing customer base that was analog. So in that sense we had a competitive disadvantage, but on the other side of it we could do two-way interactive television and — which is why through my career I was always pushing things like network DVR and video on demand and trying to use — and HDTV to use capacity —

SCHLEY: You knew you had an infrastructure advantage.

RUTLEDGE: Yes, and that infrastructure advantage required utilization of the infrastructure. So I wanted to get the infrastructure utilized so the differentiation could be perceived by the customer between us and a less capacious network like satellite.

SCHLEY: How long did that take?

RUTLEDGE: Decades.

SCHLEY: — you were behind for a few years, right?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, we were behind a long time. Because it had to do with capital intensity and the speed of rollout, but from a picture quality point of view a good analog signal and a perfectly maintained cable plant was not significantly different. But you needed to have — to get HDTV out there you needed new set top boxes. To get more channel capacity out of an existing network using compression technologies you needed digital technology. And so when you think about the tens of millions of customers we had, they were all analog, they all had to get digitized and that took time. And you had to have a market purpose to do it.

SCHLEY: Couldn’t just subsidize it without any intention of collecting retail revenue?

RUTLEDGE: Well, you could, but —

SCHLEY: Sky’s the limit, yeah.

RUTLEDGE: The people that were running those companies then didn’t think that would be a good idea. So I would say that the industry was slower to respond with digital technology than it should have and it allowed the satellite business to get bigger than it should have.

SCHLEY: Interesting.

RUTLEDGE: But it turned out that the interactivity of the network ultimately prevailed.

SCHLEY: Would save it. And I do want to get to your next gig, Cablevision Systems, but one other theme in that era, what was happening with programmer/operator relationships around this same time, cost-wise and —

RUTLEDGE: As soon as programmers had multiple outlets to sell on —

SCHLEY: Not just you anymore.

RUTLEDGE: Right. Then they could withhold their product from you and know that somebody else could sell against you with their product. Which changed the leverage very much toward the programmer.

SCHLEY: You would have done the same thing, right? If you were in charge?

RUTLEDGE: Yes. And I’ve been a programmer. AMC reported to me. Our whole original programming strategy at AMC was — you know, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, Broken Trail, Walking Dead, those were really — those strategies of getting unique original programming were designed to get higher license fees, so I’ve been on both sides of the —

SCHLEY: Interesting.

RUTLEDGE: — equation. But yeah, I guess I — the answer is yes.

SCHLEY: The dynamic was —

RUTLEDGE: You do what the opportunity presents you with.

SCHLEY: You’re talking about AMC and the Rainbow Group. What was attractive? You moved to a company called Cablevision Systems, revered in the industry for its ability to creatively package and price and get higher revenue per home than anybody. What was — I guess I just explained it, but what was the attraction there?

RUTLEDGE: Well, it was interesting because I had worked my whole 23 years prior to that to get up through the Time Inc. organization and I got that. I really was pleased that I would become the president of the company and it was what, I had moved seven times, you know, I moved my family seven times and it was not always easy, but that’s what I wanted to do. And AOL bought the Time Warner Cable and — or they merged and there was a lot of management discord and anyway I left because I didn’t think — I left voluntarily, but I thought my view of the cable industry’s potential and my idea of what a good operating manager was and could be couldn’t be realized in that environment.

SCHLEY: Really? Okay.

RUTLEDGE: So I left. And I didn’t know where I was going to go and it was scary and — but Cablevision called me actually to come over and do some consulting for them to help them with their operation and within three days they offered me the job of president of the cable company and then later I, a year or two later, I became COO of multiple businesses.

SCHLEY: You say they offered you. This is one of the many family-controlled cable companies.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, it was a family business. Jim Dolan and Chuck Dolan. Chuck was the founder and Jim was the CEO then and, you know, Cablevision was a really interesting asset. Unlike Time Inc. it wasn’t national, but its programming was. But you had a single asset in the New York market from a cable operator’s point of view and it was big and it had been at one time 58 cable systems.


RUTLEDGE: And so it had been consolidated into the franchised operations and various entities around the metropolitan New York area including the city itself, parts of the city and parts of Connecticut, and basically the New York DMA, Newark and so on.

SCHLEY: That was unusual, Tom, right? For an operator to have control over a big urban chunk.

RUTLEDGE: It was. And it didn’t even have all of New York, but it had all of its physical assets that weren’t programming in New York. And so — and it had sports teams and it had venues like Radio City Musical Hall and MSG and the Beacon Theater and others —

SCHLEY: It had Newsday at the time, is that —

RUTLEDGE: We bought Newsday, yeah, so — and we had a chain of theaters. We had a retail store called The Wiz and so we were selling modems in retail stores. So Cablevision was very creative, entrepreneurial. They were not risk averse. Highly leveraged. Entrepreneurial. And sometimes they got it really right and sometimes they didn’t.

SCHLEY: What was your relationship with the revered Charles Chuck Dolan?

RUTLEDGE: You know, Chuck wrote me a nice note recently. He’s 95, you know. He was — so he was like mid — 75, 78 when I went there, somewhere in that age group. And he was building Voom.

SCHLEY: Voom, please? What was Voom?

RUTLEDGE: Which is a satellite — a high-definition satellite business. And so he was really on the entrepreneurial side of the business and still very much engaged. You know, he watched the other business, had opinions on the cable business and had built it. He and John Totter were still there, not working fulltime, and so — and some of the companies that Chuck had bought were on his board like Alda Communications, Victor Oristano and others. So they were — from my point of view they were the fathers of the business and I was a young guy, even though I was almost 50 —

SCHLEY: It was a public company, but sort of ran as an entrepreneurial company, would you say?

RUTLEDGE: It was a public company, which was challenging for me because I was sort of the face of the public company and did the earnings reports and we were the big asset and we were spending all the capital. So yeah, it was challenging.

SCHLEY: It was an era, and I’m remiss in not leading you into this, but now we had a triplicate of services, right? By the time you were with Cablevision high speed internet, telephony, what am I missing?

RUTLEDGE: TV. (laughter)

SCHLEY: Yeah, the classic.

RUTLEDGE: The triple play.

SCHLEY: But now you could do things that were never —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, we did the triple play. You know, we were the first company to completely deploy voice over IP and didn’t go to a circuit switch platform.

SCHLEY: Straight to the promised land.

RUTLEDGE: Right, and we didn’t — and we pulled out of @Home which was — you remember @Home was a cable consortia of companies that had created this internet company —

SCHLEY: To try to kind of get you into the —

RUTLEDGE: Kind of national — like the idea was like it was going to be a national brand.

SCHLEY: I remember, yeah.

RUTLEDGE: And Cablevision pulled out of that and we did the retail strategy and put lots of modems out. And so we had very high broadband penetration earlier. You know, back then we were opening the backs of computers and putting in —

SCHLEY: Ethernet cards and —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, cards.

SCHLEY: — boards. Did you see broadband coming as a cable executive or did it just materialize, you know?

RUTLEDGE: It’s interesting. I thought interactive television would come and that we would have all sorts of digital controls and digital information available to us through an interactive platform.

SCHLEY: Over the television set though?

RUTLEDGE: Yes. I didn’t — and yeah. Now, I guess there was — there were products like CompuServe and —

SCHLEY: Prodigy.

RUTLEDGE: Yes. And I was aware of them as — and they were called interactive services.

SCHLEY: They were?

RUTLEDGE: So I didn’t see it as a — no, I didn’t see the world as what it became. I thought there’d be much more curation of the digital content than an open platform. But I thought technically the network was capable of high-capacity two-way interactive digital services and I thought they’d develop.

SCHLEY: Which is so interesting because you didn’t necessarily put in these fiber lines and these high-capacity services as a prelude to broadband internet. It happened sort of for other reasons and now here you are.

RUTLEDGE: No, actually one notion was that we would do telephone and telephone was where the money was.

SCHLEY: Everybody had a phone.

RUTLEDGE: I remember when we launched voice over IP in Long Island, actually throughout the New York metropolitan area, the average phone bill in this area was $72 a month for dialup.

SCHLEY: That’s a lot.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. It seems like a lot now.

SCHLEY: Well, yeah.

RUTLEDGE: But you know, in most parts of the country that might have been $50 or more. And we started selling it for $29.95. I think in 1995 is what we sell it for today, but so phone prices were dramatically reduced by our getting into the business and most of the phone — we became the largest phone carriers in the country of wireline —

SCHLEY: The cable guys?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, the cable companies. And Cablevision led the way with that and using a package and bundling strategy of tying very inexpensive voice, high quality voice, with very fast broadband compared to dialup and — because dialup — AOL existed so there was a web before there was speed.

SCHLEY: It was very frustrating, but it did exist.

RUTLEDGE: It was frustrating, but people were doing it and just what you — what your expectations were, were so much different.

SCHLEY: So as the leader of that organization, it had to be fun, right? I mean you had a new tool kit.

RUTLEDGE: It was fun and it was fun and we also packaged video and put a lot of video package together and tried to make less money on the premium by creating — by getting more people to take more of it. And with the idea that if you’re going to buy television from us you get a really rich package. If you’re going to buy high speed data from us you get the fastest service. If you buy voice from us, you get the best voice product. Put it all together, a triple play, and it’s still way cheaper than satellite, way cheaper than dialup, and way cheaper than phone service if you buy them in component pieces. And so it was a good deal and it lowered people’s communications bills in total.

SCHLEY: What’s not to like?

RUTLEDGE: We’re doing the same today with mobile.

SCHLEY: Just a question about — how did these ideas percolate and become real? Did you give latitude to your marketing and operations teams or how did you make this happen as the decision maker for the company?

RUTLEDGE: You know, I was there. The organization had ideas and was creative. Like I said, it was an entrepreneurial organization and I took those ideas and we communicated internally and created the packaging and products and I authorized them and they went forward. And so I was intricately involved, but I was also a conductor of an orchestra and there were a lot of people involved and that had marketing ideas and engineering ideas and the Cablevision engineering team, Wilt Hildenbrand, was very sophisticated, very creative, and the marketing group under Pat Gottesman was also very creative.

SCHLEY: And I would be remiss if I —

RUTLEDGE: Jon Hargis.

SCHLEY: Jon Hargis, I remember — I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention a concept called network DVR that I think came to life when you were at Cablevision. Maybe you can just —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, we took that — obviously — it actually came out of a conversation we had with Steve Case — not Steve Case, Steve Jobs.

SCHLEY: Steve Jobs?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. We went out to see him as a group at CableLabs one time and he had just invented the iPad and he wanted to create a dongle on a VCR so that the VCR could talk to the iPad and load programming into the —

SCHLEY: I got to tell you, it sounds so kludgy right now.

RUTLEDGE: It was kludgy. It was a stupid idea. And so — as I was saying earlier, I said so, as did others, but my thought was let’s create on-demand IP TV and put it on the iPad. And let’s not only do that, let’s put the DVR in the sky and do what everybody does now —

SCHLEY: Tom, does someone who’s 18 and is hearing you say this, they’re going to say, “Duh, of course that’s what we do,” but it was —

RUTLEDGE: Nobody thought of it. Steve Jobs didn’t think of it.

SCHLEY: It was remarkable at the time.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, it was. I don’t know if it was remarkable, but I thought it was legal, I thought it was — and it was.

SCHLEY: You had to prove it out.

RUTLEDGE: And I thought it — but we had to go to the Supreme Court. And I remember talking to Jeff Bewkes and trying to — because he was the litigant. Technically I think it was — I can’t even think of the name of their — The Comedy Channel, is that —

SCHLEY: That was one of his —

RUTLEDGE: The Cartoon Channel.

SCHLEY: For Turner Cartoon —

RUTLEDGE: That was the litigant.

SCHLEY: If I look at the case that’s —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, I think so.


RUTLEDGE: But it was Time, you know, it was Time Warner, ironically, that thought it was a bad idea.

SCHLEY: But it did become the method by which we get a lot of television.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, all television now. I mean every streaming service is essentially —

SCHLEY: A network DVR.


SCHLEY: One more. You also oversaw the acquisition, and I think it surprised some people, of a company called Bresnan Communications when you were at Cablevision and now you weren’t just New York City, you were — you had all these small — these different territories.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, rural, yes.

SCHLEY: What was the attraction of growing that way?

RUTLEDGE: I thought that what we were doing at Cablevision with the triple play and with the product definitions I described earlier was really a huge opportunity for everyone in the cable business.

SCHLEY: It was translatable.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, and I thought the whole industry should do that. I thought Time Warner should do that and I thought the more cable we could get and manage as a company the better off we’d be as a company because, you know, it was interesting, when Cablevision — we had the Bronx. Bronx is the biggest, poorest city in America and we had higher revenue, higher penetration and higher revenue per customer in the Bronx than every MSO had nationally in the country with the strategy that we had adopted. So I was pretty comfortable that with the right execution strategy —

SCHLEY: You could export that?

RUTLEDGE: We could export it anywhere and that cable could be a lot more valuable than it was then. And so that was my motivation in trying to go with Bresnan. And the family, the Dolan family, was in agreement and we started to look for other acquisitions. Actually, the reason I ended up at Charter really was because Cablevision decided they didn’t want to do that.

SCHLEY: Was your thought that not only would the model translate, but to be a power in this business you had to be big? Was there a sense of scale?

RUTLEDGE: I thought — no. What I saw was if you want to create a lot of value you need to do it this way and the only way I could be — where I could create the value or the company could create the value was by owning the assets, but it wasn’t that anybody else couldn’t do it too.

SCHLEY: No, I get that. So just if you would take us through that segue from Cablevision to Charter Communications. What state was Charter in at the time when you took over management of the company?

RUTLEDGE: I called it a diamond in the rough to be nice.

SCHLEY: That was charitable of you, yeah, right.

RUTLEDGE: It had gone through bankruptcy so and it was an amalgam of cable companies that had been franchised later in the process and they were more exurban than suburban in many cases.

SCHLEY: As an example, what would have — was Marcus one of those companies or?

RUTLEDGE: Marcus Cable. I’m trying to think of what was in there. Ambassador to Norway.

SCHLEY: I don’t know. I noticed you had a lot of Wisconsin too, I think, at the time.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, we had a lot of Wisconsin, rural Wisconsin. We had Michigan, upper peninsula of Michigan, stuff around Los Angeles.

SCHLEY: But it was a distressed asset, is that a fair —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. it was — but it was — there were — my view was these assets were great assets. There were two-way interactive high-capacity networks and, back to where we were a while ago, if you use them people will find the products on them valuable and you can — but you need to make the products valuable. So I thought Charter, when I looked at Charter it had six million customers, it had lower penetration. It had skimped on lots of investment, but the fundamental upgrade of the network had been done. But during the bankruptcy process there was a lot of maintenance deferred and some people — some managers did better than others. Some people threw their hands up and let things deteriorate. So it was a real mixture of problems.

SCHLEY: But your diamond in the rough analogy was pretty apt.


SCHLEY: If you think about it, you had lots of room.

RUTLEDGE: There was lots of room. And so you needed some cash to get — they hadn’t bought a truck in years. The rolling stock was falling — the tires were bald. So that kind of thing had to be dealt with, and training had to be done and people had to be paid and all the component pieces of an operation had to be put together. But I believed that if you did that the revenue would come, and we did it. So we spent the money, we fixed the network, we fixed the operations, we educated all the employees about how we were going to do this. And it was back to the three legs of the stool and I think I started using that conversation a lot at Charter. It was really about getting everybody on board with we’re going to fix this company up, we’re going to run a really high-class service operation, we’re going to run a great network, we’re going to put great products on it, and we’re going to have a lot of customers.

SCHLEY: That’s the play, right.

RUTLEDGE: And that’s what happened.

SCHLEY: And then one day you’re robustly improving this asset and tell me what the moment was, and then one day something changes because one day you pursue this path to get a lot bigger with two, maybe the largest transactions in the cable industry, I don’t know.

RUTLEDGE: I think they were.

SCHLEY: But just can you talk about what were those two companies and how did that come about?

RUTLEDGE: It was Time Warner Cable —

SCHLEY: Back to the future.

RUTLEDGE: And it was Bright House. And Bright House and Time Warner Cable were related and interestingly, I was part of the what’s called TW-N partnership in Time Warner. So Newhouse had — Newhouse Cable which was — there were three assets in that, Vision Cable, Newhouse, New Channels, and the other one I can’t remember the name of it. But anyway, there were a partnership with Time Warner and when AOL, back to the AOL transaction, did their deal the Newhouse people pulled their assets out of that partnership and they ended up with Bright House. And so they pulled out for the same reason I did.

SCHLEY: Yeah, I get it.

RUTLEDGE: In a way. And so the reason — my goal of getting Time Warner and Bright House was the same goal I had in getting Bresnan, the same goal I had in getting Charter. I think and thought that these are great assets and that they can be upgraded for relatively small capital versus any alternative and that you can get enormous capabilities out of these networks and that you can build great products and sell them. And so I thought if we were doing that faster at Time Warner Cable, we’d create a lot of value. So my goal of doing the Time Warner deal actually goes back — Chuck Dolan and I went over to see Time Warner about a deal and we were going to do it at Cablevision and I wanted to do it.

SCHLEY: I’m sure you did.

RUTLEDGE: I wanted to do it because I thought this industry had that potential that I expressed and that if we could run it the way Cablevision was running a lot of value would be created. And if you look, Cablevision was generating about $400 a passing and Time Warner Cable was generating about $225 in revenue. And so that difference means that if you paid — if you can create that you can almost double the value of the company. And that’s what I thought we could do. And so it didn’t work with Cablevision and there were control issues and then the family decided they really didn’t want to get bigger in cable for whatever family reasons there were. So I tried to do it through Charter and with the help of Liberty Media and John Malone and with the help of — well, with the — actually there was a long — it was a long difficult fight —

SCHLEY: Right, for control of Time Warner Cable.

RUTLEDGE: And Comcast was in there fighting for it and we had a different partnership arrangement. We actually had a deal that failed that Comcast was involved in.

SCHLEY: Like a split the asset up between the two companies?


SCHLEY: I didn’t realize that.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, called Greatland I think was our asset, but we got the consolation prize in that one, but the FCC denied the Comcast acquisition and then we made an attempt and we actually competed with Altice.

SCHLEY: The successor to —

RUTLEDGE: The successor and ended up with the Time Warner deal and the Bright House deal in one deal. And Time Warner was providing services to Bright House, network services and set top engineering services, and so Bright House was concerned that they would be sort of stranded if we didn’t do a deal with them as well, so we did. And they were a well-run customer service operation, but we still got — I still had a lot of — I had high expectations about what we could do with that asset as well.

SCHLEY: Well, I mean I get that you were executing your idea that had been a longstanding idea, but it seems to me that bringing together these organizations at this scale is a challenging job. I mean what did you do? How did you go about it?

RUTLEDGE: It was. Well, you know, it was — luckily John Bickham, who worked with me at Cablevision and worked with me at Time Warner —

SCHLEY: You said, “John, make this happen. put these companies together.”

RUTLEDGE: Well, John and I had very similar backgrounds, but we also had a long working history together and he knew what I wanted and he knew — and I knew what he could do. And they were perfectly aligned. And so John put the operations together and it was complex because, don’t forget, Charter was 25% of the company, the new company, so here we were, the tail wagging the dog trying to manage it.

SCHLEY: Because did you more than double? Did you triple, double the size of the company?

RUTLEDGE: We more than — we quadrupled the size of the company.

SCHLEY: Subscriber-wise or customer-wise?


SCHLEY: Wow. Okay.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, and so — and then we had to manage it. And a lot of the leadership left and they had gone through a fairly traumatic restructuring because of the Comcast deal. A lot of the Newhouse people did stay, and the field people stayed, and the call center people stayed, but yeah, we had to take over the company and get it moving quickly, and we did. And John is really the architect of that execution.

SCHLEY: Down to the level of logos on trucks, right? I mean you’ve got to —

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, logo —

SCHLEY: You had to do it all.

RUTLEDGE: First of all, we had to buy trucks because we were really rolling a junkyard. Now, the Time Warner assets were better. They had taken care of their plant and they had taken care of their trucks, but they had gone through the opposite of decentralization for a long period of time and tried to centralize, but they didn’t really do it in a very coherent way and so when we bought the company there were 12 billing platforms and so each billing platform sort of ran an entity. I mean you couldn’t mix customers from one entity to another because the set top boxes were all controlled out of a single platform and the bills were all controlled out of a platform. So there’s a lot of underneath the —

SCHLEY: If I may, that sounds really hard. That sounds kind of like a nightmare.

RUTLEDGE: It’s kind of a nightmare unless you know —

SCHLEY: Unless you have John Bickham working for you, right?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. So what we did is we created a synthetic cover over all these disparate assets of branding and marketing and pricing of packaging and service standards and government relations and community relations. And so we ran the customer facing side of the business in a uniform way and then meticulously switched out the legacy platforms, which were huge. All the set top boxes, all the controllers, all of the billing systems. And even where things were managed and you know, you think about the assets we owned, like Charter would have a system in Grand Rapids and next door to it would be a legacy Time Warner cable system, but the technicians from one system couldn’t go work in the other.

SCHLEY: I was going to say you would think it would be an easy fit and you just meld them together.

RUTLEDGE: Right, but you couldn’t because they had different codes for everything they did. And so it was a completely different training system, different tech mobile platform, meaning the technicians were managed differently. The one thing we did, we learned a lot about the failed merger that Comcast was in that we were in where we got a carveout piece and we had a whole series of transition services agreements. And so those are — when you buy a modern cable system there’s so much software infrastructure underneath the hardware that you can’t just take over and talk to all the devices. For instance, Charter today has 500 million devices connected to the network and they’re all talking through — yeah, I mean when you think about how many phones and —

SCHLEY: Per household you’ve got multiple —

RUTLEDGE: — Wi-Fi devices there are in every house. Set top boxes. You’ve got 500 million devices. Those, you know, to some extent some of those are still on legacy platforms. Not much. Most of it is IP now, but to get from the legacy video platforms to the modern IP platform — and even there — and we’re still changing out stuff and increasing capacity. So that process of understanding how all that works and being able to manage it required a lot of experience.

SCHLEY: Besides 500 million devices, as a CEO how did you deal with the culture issues? Like you want one company, right?

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. You know, what we said was, “Look, we have to get this working right away. We don’t have any time and it’s very big and it’s very complex. We know from our experience what will work. It may not be the best way to do it, you know may know a better way, but we know this will work and we don’t have time to analyze anything else. We’re going to do what we think is the right thing to do so here’s what it is.” And that, you know, some people didn’t like that, but it was honest and we did it. So we said here’s — we know what we want. We know what we think will work and so this is what we’re going to do.

SCHLEY: Did the investment community get it? Did they at large buy into what you were doing?

RUTLEDGE: Some. Those that did made money. (laughter)

SCHLEY: Well done.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. So not everybody. And people, you know, investors, you know, they get nervous and this is a long-term business with big capital and big creations of long-term revenue streams and some people don’t like the wait and get nervous about it so the short termism versus long termism is always an issue.

SCHLEY: I want to in our remaining time talk to you a little bit about the future, but also wanted to talk to you about a comment you made in one of your quarterly calls early on in the pandemic. If I have this right you alluded to something called the Mother’s Day phenomenon. This is an old telephone bromide where on Mother’s Day suddenly there’s a surge of demand because everyone wants to call mom, right?


SCHLEY: And you said, “Look, the pandemic made it so that every day suddenly was Mother’s Day for our broadband network.” And yet the thing held up.


SCHLEY: Were you worried, were you nervous, did you know that — were you confident in the network?

RUTLEDGE: Well, I wasn’t expecting a pandemic.

SCHLEY: Well, yeah, join the world club.

RUTLEDGE: So I can’t tell you — we didn’t plan for that. No, what it showed was that the networks — this is back to this recurring theme. These are very robust high-capacity networks and they’re not fully used by any means.

SCHLEY: That’s interesting.

RUTLEDGE: And we — yes, we build. You have to spend capital to activate more capacity, which we called capacity planning and so we’re constantly building out for expectations of future utilization. That kind of capital is not nearly as difficult to deploy and it’s not nearly as expensive as building a new network.

SCHLEY: As digging trenches and laying fiber right from the — scratch.

RUTLEDGE: That’s right. We’ve already done all that. So and so with software and digital technology you can massively increase capacity. That costs money, but it’s not as much. And so we had enough headroom in the capacity that we had built in general to handle the change in pandemic utilization. But you know, networks are built for maximum peak utilization. It’s the Mother’s Day phenomenon. Once you’ve built enough dial tone for — this is old telephone argot —

SCHLEY: I understand.

RUTLEDGE: — for Mother’s Day, no day is going to be worse unless it’s the end of the world.

SCHLEY: I get it.

RUTLEDGE: The pandemic was — it’s interesting, it changed capacity, but not as much as you’d think because it didn’t change maximum peak utilization that much. It just moved it in different day parts.

SCHLEY: The Zoom call at 10 am is a thing.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. I mean you know, yes, it increased capacity in the range of 20% or so, but there was enough head room in most of the network to deal with that. Now, we had some remediation we had to do and we did it as quickly as we could and there were some places — and it goes back to legacy design issues in certain markets, but in general the network had a — the capacity was already there and we got lucky though too that the fundamental nature of the maximum didn’t change that much.

SCHLEY: That’s an interesting way to look at it. And then there’s a lot that Charter has been doing under your leadership in the last few years, broadband expansion, physical buildouts of networks, but I wanted to focus on a couple of areas before we lose you. One is the mobile investment and the wildfire takeoff of the mobile business. What’s behind that? Why do we need another mobile carrier and what do you bring to the table there?

RUTLEDGE: The biggest thing we bring is that — back to — you remember when landlines were $72 and we took them to $29 and it was an even better video — I mean a digital phone service. That saved customers money to buy other things. It created real value for the consumer. The consumer’s communications wallet got bigger and that’s the big story in mobile. It’s a high-priced low-capacity service. The average household spends way more on mobile than they do on broadband.

SCHLEY: Into the hundred and some dollars?

RUTLEDGE: Hundred and 30, $140 a month. You know, because there’s multiple lines per household. And so — and we’ve developed some technology to offload mobile costs onto our own network because we have capacity.

SCHLEY: Sounds familiar.

RUTLEDGE: So we use Wi-Fi and we use CBRS, potentially in a big way, but at this point a fairly minor way.

SCHLEY: Citizens band radio spectrum.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah, it’s still — it’s breaker, breaker, Charlie, you know. That kind of stuff. That’s been repurposed and we can use 5G radios in it and we can talk to your phone when it’s near our radio and if you’re near the MVNO’s radio then you go to that radio. And so the more capacity you move onto your own network in a capitally efficient way the lower your costs are. So we can make people have better broadband, better mobile, for less money. And that’s why it’s a good business. And that’s why we’re growing so fast.

SCHLEY: This is not an entirely new game plan writ large.

RUTLEDGE: No, it’s not like we’re reinventing what the handset does, the mobile phone.

SCHLEY: And then the other subject area, Tom, is the partnership that you’ve put together with Comcast to devise a different sort of video distribution play, I think under the name Xumo.

RUTLEDGE: It is under Xumo, yes.

SCHLEY: It is fascinating. Can you kind of explain to our audience what that is?

RUTLEDGE: Xumo is a platform. It’s a way to put applications and a store together with a device and get high quality video service on any TV or any other screen. And it allows us to sell app-based television. Now, Charter actually is the biggest app provider in the country.

SCHLEY: I’m aware of this, yes.

RUTLEDGE: People would think, given YouTube and everything, that they’re bigger, but they’re not. And we use Roku in most cases, but we use Apple TV too and we were early in that. So a lot of our customers, more than 11 million, don’t need set top boxes from us. The Xumo set top box will be a consumer device and — but the beauty of it is that it’s a way for us to inexpensively give customers access to app-based platforms and to create opportunities through ad sales and through transaction revenues, selling of services.

SCHLEY: Does it matter where I live in terms of the use of that product?

RUTLEDGE: Depends on the — not necessarily, no. In the future your — where you live and your ability to take this device with you is irrelevant. To some services. Now, there are geolocated services.

SCHLEY: Indeed, yes.

RUTLEDGE: Including all the original cable networks that are distributed through Title 6, but most of those services are available on IP platforms too which are not Title 6. Title 6 is regulatory authority over the transmissions. It’s kind of crazy in the digital world that there are two regimes, but there are.

SCHLEY: Indeed, yes.

RUTLEDGE: So yes, products can be sold by nation, by regional sports network. They can be sold by whatever criteria the programmers’ rights structure requires and the platform is agnostic to that and you can manage all that on the platform.

SCHLEY: Was there ever a point where you worried about your video business getting away from you or —

RUTLEDGE: Well, it is getting away from us. It’s falling apart because, remember, we talked about programmers having the ability to —

SCHLEY: Leverage their platforms.

RUTLEDGE: They took their rates up. They have the perfect environment, high rates and massive distribution. And it was really hard to not be doing well if you were a programmer for a long time, but it just got so expensive that they priced themselves out of the market. Then they started looking for marginal opportunities and they sold some of their content to the over-the-top people and then they didn’t secure it and so people had access to high quality video without paying for it. So it’s put a lot of pressure on the traditional cable distribution business which is shrinking. And so I look at Xumo as sort of the successor to the cable model, not that the big broadband or the big package business of linear television won’t continue to exist. Sports and news will remain linear. And I think some entertainment will remain linear, certain kinds of linear, but I think the packages are going to change and I think that the — it really goes back to the video on demand issue that we talked about, the legal issue. You know, technically we can get the content anywhere, anytime, anyplace, and it’s really about —

SCHLEY: It’s enabling access.

RUTLEDGE: It’s about the business model and it’s about the rights structures.

SCHLEY: Two questions for our younger viewers in the audience. What’s exciting about the cable business going forward for somebody who’s making career development decisions today? What do you see getting jazzed about?

RUTLEDGE: Look, I think we are still, for decades to come, the future of communications and the needs of communications will continue to grow dramatically and the capacity required will create — I mean and the products and the capacity together will require investment and it’ll require — it’ll present opportunities for growth. And I see — we’ve had senior management meetings in the last few years where we’ve had holograms displayed on tables like this. I think 10 years down the road or 15 years down the road you’ll have 3D projection in commercial applications and consumer applications and you’ll need really high-capacity networks to do them. And I think we’ll be at the center of all of that.

SCHLEY: That’s my point. You’ve been such an evangelist for don’t get seduced by the mystique of and the romance of fiber optics being the be all and end all communications distribution pipeline. You still believe in that, I think.

RUTLEDGE: Yeah. Of those 500 million devices that are connected to our network only around 30 million are still connected by wire.

SCHLEY: Whoa. That’s striking.

RUTLEDGE: And none of the Xumo devices will be connected by wire. So nobody’s connected to fiber essentially.

SCHLEY: No, I see what you’re saying. And then finally, a career development question. How does one — there are a lot of smart talented people with chops in and around the cable industry. Not all of them rise to be CEOs of major public companies. How does one get noticed, get seen, in a corporate organizational environment?

RUTLEDGE: That’s a good question. And people ask me that all the time internally, when we’re talking to managers at different levels, and I say it’s really all about the work. Are you doing — do you know what you’re doing? Do you really know what you’re doing? And is it obvious that you do? And how would you know if it’s obvious? Well, the results would be there. So focus on that. Don’t focus on how you sell yourself or —

SCHLEY: Your personal brand.

RUTLEDGE: Your brand.

SCHLEY: We hear so much about that, right?

RUTLEDGE: And so many people do think that there’s a — that you can read a book on style and be successful. Now, I think if you’re honest and you know what you’re doing and you have mastered your craft it’s obvious. And people see that and they listen to you if you know what you’re talking about. And if you know what you’re talking about people treat you well and it’s very affirming. And if you’re affirmed you have confidence.

SCHLEY: It builds on itself.

RUTLEDGE: It builds and so it’s all really about being legitimate and being good at what you do and knowing what you’re — mastering the information and mastering the task and don’t be thinking about tasks that you’re not in charge of.

SCHLEY: Great point. right, do what you’re assigned to do or what you can do and do it well.

RUTLEDGE: You might want to know what your boss’s boss thinks, but you can’t know what everybody — you can’t know necessarily what the experience of a high-level corporate executive is versus a supervisor or manager or director. You can’t have that much vision in every task you do. You’ve got to know what you’re doing.

SCHLEY: I like it. This has been a remarkable conversation. I so appreciate the chance to sit down with the recently retired CEO of Charter Communications tracing back to 1972. You’ve taken us through this journey and it’s so interesting to see the consistency of ideology all along the way. It really hasn’t changed. So thank you, Tom Rutledge. For Syndeo Institute at the Cable Center I’m Stewart Schley and thank you for tuning in.

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