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History Of Cable Television

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The History Of Cable Television

The 1940's and 1950s Cable Television originated in 1948 as a service to households in mountainous or geographically remote areas where reception of over the air television signals was poor. Antennas were erected on mountaintops or other high points, and homes were wired and connected to these towers to receive the broadcast signals.

By 1950, 70 cable systems served 14,000 subscribers nationwide. In late 1950s, when cable operators began to take advantage of their ability to pick up broadcast signals from hundreds of miles access to these "distant signals" changed the focus of cable's role from one of transmitting local broadcast signals to one of providing new programming choices.

The 1960s by 1962, almost 800 cable systems serving 850,000 subscribers were in business. Not surprisingly, the growth of cable through the importation of distant signals was viewed as competition by local television stations. In response to broadcast industry concerns, the FCC expanded its jurisdiction and placed restrictions on the ability of cable system to import distant television signals. This action had the effect of freezing the development of cable systems in major markets.

In the early 1970s, the FCC continued it's restrictive policies by enacting regulations that limited the ability of cable operators to offer movies, sporting events, and syndicated programming. The freeze on cable's development lasted until 1972, when a policy of gradual cable deregulation led to, among other things, modified restrictions on the importation of distant signals.

Throughout the 1970s, concerted industry efforts at the federal, state and local levels resulted in continued lessening of cable restrictions. These changes, couples with cables pioneering to satellite communications technology, led to a pronounced growth of services to consumers and a substantial increase in cable subscribers.

In 1972, Charles Dolan and Gerald Levin of Sterling Manhattan Cable launched the nation's first pay-TV network, Home Box Office (HBO). This venture led to the creation of a national satellite distribution system that used a newly approved domestic satellite transmission. Satellites changed the business dramatically, paving the way for the explosive growth of program networks.

The second service to use the satellite was a local television station in Atlanta that broadcast primarily sports and classic movies. The station, owned by R.E Turner, substituted its existing microwave distribution with satellite distribution, and soon became known as the first "super station" WTBS.By the end of the decade, nearly 15 million households were cable subscribers.

The 1980s while the delivery of programming via satellite was evolving, the 1984 Cable Act effectively deregulated the industry, stimulating investment in cable plant and programming on an unprecedented level. There can be little doubt that deregulation had a strong positive effect on the rapid growth of these cable services. From 1984 through 1992, the industry spent more then $15 billion on the wiring of America, and billions more on program development. This was the largest private construction project since World War II.

By the end of the decade, nearly 5 million households subscribed to cable and cable program networks had increased from 28 million in 1980 to 74 million by 1989. Satellite delivery, combined with the federal government's relaxation of cable's restrictive regulatory structure, allowed the cable industry to become a major force in providing high quality video entertainment and information to consumers.

The 1990s and Beyond Based on the alternative idea of targeting programming to a specific "niche audience" the number of cable program networks exploded. By the end of 1995, there were 139 cable programming services available nationwide, in addition to many regional programming networks. By the spring of 1998, the number of national cable video networks grew to 171.

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