To aid the transition, Hildenbrand has assumed the role of senior advisor of engineering and technology. He most recently served as Cablevision's executive vice president of engineering and technology.
The company said the new role will fulfill Hildenbrand's "desire for a role with less day-to-day management responsibility."
Hildenbrand, a 30-year veteran of Cablevision, was named CED's Man of the Year in January 1996, and told the story of his "rags to riches" rise in the cable industry, as well as his and Cablevision's controversial decision to use 1550 nanometer transmission technology, while the rest of the industry was using 1350 nm.
His cutting-edge thinking and decision-making skills were also tested in the deployment of digital video, when Cablevision originally opted for high-powered set-tops from Sony Corp., but later added Scientific-Atlanta (now part of Cisco Systems Corp.) to the mix.
Though Cablevision was late to the digital game, its deployment of the service has been extremely successful (in Q4, Cablevision reported a digital to basic penetration rate of 64.8 percent). Despite making some significant some set-top and headend changes in midstream, the company was able to retain a key goal: breaking from the traditional conditional access (CA) duopoly of S-A's and Motorola Inc.'s Mediacipher. Today, Cablevision uses a CA system from NDS Group.
"Perhaps more than any other single individual, Cablevision's technology leadership is a credit to Wilt Hildenbrand," said Cablevision President & CEO James Dolan, in a statement.
James Blackley, a "long-time colleague and deputy" of Hildenbrand's who most recently served as Cablevision's SVP of technology architecture, has been named SVP of corporate engineering and technology. Blackley now reports to Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge.
In addition to his personal accomplishments at Cablevision, "Wilt has also built a solid technology team, and we have no doubt that Jim Blackley is the right person to manage the continued development of our technology and engineering initiatives as we set new standards of excellence in technology innovation," Rutledge said, in a release.
"Looking ahead, Jim Blackley will prove to be an outstanding choice to expand his already impressive portfolio at Cablevision and we both look forward to working together to ensure that Cablevision retains its technology leadership in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving telecommunications industry," Hildenbrand said.
Hildenbrand, 58, joined Cablevision in 1976 as chief engineer of the MSO's Long Island systems.