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The new millennium has seen new things in the world of cable television. The way we watch television changed with the development of features, such as video on-demand, which allowed people to stop and pause a program as it was playing and to watch movies with a touch of a button from their cable television remote control.
The new millennium has also seen companies merging, such as AT&T and Comcast, to become the largest cable company around. At the end of 2005, there were over 24.3 million Internet subscribers and 27.6 million digital cable subscribers. Cable television sure has come a long way from 1948, when John Walson set that antenna on top of a mountain in Pennsylvania.
After much work by John Walson in the 1940s to perfect the rudimentary cable TV system he had originally started, coaxial cable was put to use, thus making Community Antenna Television (CATV) extremely popular.
Because of Walson's work in the 1940s, cable television grew in popularity in the 1950s. By 1950, there were 14,000 customers throughout the nation who were utilizing CATV in their homes with around 70 CATV systems available throughout the country.
In the 1950s, Milton Jerrold Shapp came up with a plan to get rid of those antennas that sat atop stores and apartments. He called it the Master Antenna Television (MATV), which got rid of antennas that made the tops of these buildings look like an antenna graveyard.
Have you ever wondered what started the cable TV boom? It all started in 1948 when a man named John Walson from Mahanoy City, Pa. decided to try to get the new and exciting world of broadcast television to his tiny town in the mountains of Pennsylvania. He wasn't pleased with the reception he was getting from the television broadcasts from Philadelphia, so he decided to take it upon himself to fix that.
Walson placed an antenna on the top of a mountain and ran a wire from the antenna to a television in an appliance store that he owned. Once people heard that Walson was able to get such clear reception by using a simple wire, the sale of televisions went wild, as did the use of the signal transmitter he used to get the improved pictures. Thus, cable television was born!
By the early 1990s, cable television prices were continuing to rise, making consumers none too happy. Because of rising prices, Congress passed legislation in 1992 that put a restriction on the growth of the cable industry. This meant that satellite companies and wireless cable would be limited in their growth, as well.
That wasn't the case, however. Satellite companies continued to grow regardless of the legislative act and by 1995 there were 139 cable services available throughout the United States, along with what you could view in your local area. In 1998, the number of cable services available grew even higher to over 170. It seems there were endless choices when it came to cable television.
The 1990s also saw the growth of fiber optic networks, thanks to a $65 billion investment to build these networks. Broadband was developed creating high-speed access to the Internet.
The 1980s were all about cable television. This was really when it seemed everyone was subscribing to cable television.
Within a span of eight years, over $15 billion was spent on wiring the United States for cable television and billions of dollars was spent on new programs for cable television. This, as you would think, caused an incredible growth in the popularity of cable television.
By 1989, almost 53 million Americans had cable television in their homes. The ability to watch almost anything you wanted from your own home was just what people in the United States seemed to crave. The people had just one concern as the 1980s came to a close: with the popularity of cable television growing, so were cable television prices. What would happen in the 1990's?
Cable television hit a snag in the late 1960s with local television stations complaining that the ability to view a station from a large distance was costing them viewers and they weren't able to compete. Because of this, the FCC placed a freeze on cable television that restricted them from getting more and more signals from far off places.
This freeze didn't help cable television in the 1970s because it forbid cable companies from showing sporting events, movies and programs offered in syndication. This freeze was lifted gradually, beginning in1972, but not before costing the cable industry a lot of money.
However, all wasn't lost with cable during the 1970s. The first pay-for-TV network was created in 1972. Two pioneering men, Charles Dolan and Gerald Levin, created a little cable movie channel called HBO. Perhaps you have heard of it today?
Because of this pay-TV network, a national satellite system that used domestic satellite transmission was launched. This meant a huge growth in programming choices for cable television viewers.
The end of the 1970s saw the cable television industry booming with nearly 16 million people subscribing to cable television.
If you thought that the 1940s and 1950s were a busy time for cable television, you won't believe all that happened in the 1960s! In 1962, there were over 850,000 people watching cable television in their homes throughout the U.S., with close to 800 cable systems providing the cable to these fine folks.
The 1960s was also when major corporations sat up and took notice that this was going to be a profitable business and began to invest in cable television. Corporations, like Westinghouse and Cox, started what would become profitable partnerships with the cable industry.
HBO was the first cable service on cable television to use satellite to broadcast its shows. What was the second? A little network owned by Ted Turner. In the 1970s after HBO became popular, Ted Turner took a local station he owned in Atlanta and decided to distribute it to cable systems throughout the United States to increase viewership. Sports and older movies were this station's primary content and it soon became the first "superstation." Do you know the name of this station? If you guessed WTBS, you are correct, though it is now referred to as TBS. It is still a wildly popular cable channel today.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|