Watching Cable TV Grow
Cable TV has been with us for what seems like forever. The industry – and it is an industry – has grown and improved as a technology and as a multi-service provider. In its 60 year history cable has profoundly affected American culture and redefined TV viewing.
Cable TV’s beginnings can be traced back to 1948 when John Walson connected cable to a mountaintop tower at one end and to homes on the other end to improve the reception from stations in nearby Philadelphia. While the same concept was put in place in Arkansas and Oregon during the same time frame, Walson is officially recognized as the inventor of cable TV.
Cable networks still use the tree and branch, one-way distribution platform to deliver cable to homes. Program signals are received from a source and sent by cable, satellite, and microwave to a “headend,” a processing point where the signals are processed and refined into tunable TV signals. The signals are then transmitted via cable to the home, descrambled and converted for individual channel viewing.
The cable industry’s growth between the mid 1960s and 1984 was slowed by government regulation. The Cable Act of 1984 reduced much of the regulation that had been place on cable companies and developers. Between 1984 and 1992 cable companies invested $15 billion in wiring communities throughout the United States. This expansion was considered to be the largest private construction project since World War II.
Today, cable networks are available throughout the country and have eclipsed the major three TV networks as the dominant source of programming. In the majority of cases, cable coverage for an area is negotiated between a cable carrier and a local government entity, usually 15 years. The carrier pays the government entity a fee of no more than five percent for the use of poles and right of ways.
As cable has redefined TV viewing in the past, it will continue to change viewing habits in the future. Among the current basic channels on able, there are a growing number of “narrowcasts” directed at specific audiences. That trend will continue. The addition of digital broadcasting in 2003 opens new doors to cable programming possibilities and markets. The future is of TV is cable and we are watching it grow every day.