He worked on ITV soap Emmerdale as storyliner and story editor before moving the Street as story editor and latterly series story editor. Blackburn returned to Emmerdale as series producer in 2011 to replace the late Gavin Blyth.
In October 2012 it was announced that Blackburn would once again return to Coronation Street to replace producer Phil Collinson in early 2013. After taking over, he was involved in concluding the Karl Munro killer storyline, which started after he set fire to the Rovers Return Inn and killed Sunita Alahan, which was part of Collinson's final episodes. He brought back Beverley Callard as Liz McDonald after her departure in 2011 and reintroduced the McDonalds to the Rovers. He also axed characters such as Paul Kershaw, Brian Packham and original character Dennis Tanner, three years after his reintroduction following a 43 year absence.
Major stories under Blackburn include a whodunnit storyline involving the murder of Tina McIntyre in 2014 after Michelle Keegan quit the role in the previous year, leading to the false imprisonment of her lover Peter Barlow and concluded with the comeuppance of true killer Rob Donovan (Marc Baylis). 2014 saw Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson) suffering from depression, which tied with a minibus crash in January 2015. Another major plot in 2015 saw 12-year-old Faye Windass (Ellie Leach) discovering she was seven-months pregnant, and trying to conceal the truth from mother Anna, but later going into labour and giving birth to a baby girl. He also dealt with the passing of Hayley Cropper from pancreatic cancer, after Julie Hesmondhalgh quit the role after 14 years.
He also oversaw the creation of new characters, including the show's first Muslim family the Nazirs (consisting of Kal, Sharif, Alya, Yasmeen and Zeedan), Chesney Brown's new love interest Sinead Tinker, Sophie Webster's new love interest Maddie Heath, Kylie Platt's villainous ex-boyfriend Callum Logan, comedian Les Dennis as Michael Rodwell and homosexual vicar Billy Mayhew.
Blackburn has been controversial with some viewers of the show, feeling that he has "ruined" it and not kept up the quality, something Blackburn was accused of during his tenure on Emmerdale. This became apparent when in 2015 newspapers picked up on it and claimed the ratings were going down and the quality decreasing. Blackburn however denied the rumours, saying that the show was stronger than ever.