The Cable Television Industry: Where it's Been and Where it's Going

The Cable Television Industry: Where it's Been and Where it's Going

Cable television has come a long way in the last few decades. From few subscribers and channels to hundreds of stations and millions of subscribers, it’s shocking to see the changes. With so many offerings, it’s interesting to look at the humble beginnings of cable television. On top of that, we need to consider where it’s going in the future.

Humble Beginnings

Most people don’t realize that cable television dates back to the 1940s. At that time, it was called "community antenna television," or CATV. The original use of community antenna television was to get television stations to those who were outside of the normal broadcast signal area. The operators would use antennas to pick up stations, transmitting them farther than ever before. Even back in the 1940s, there was a fee for the cable users.

Early Development

When considering how cable was used, it’s not surprising that many people didn’t think it had much of a future. By the 1950s, there were only 70 communities throughout the entire United States that operated and used the cable systems. In these 70 communities, about 14,000 houses had cable. At the time, it was not a way to get more channels, but to get the stations that were available to a broader audience.

Current Cable Television

It’s amazing to see how cable has grown and changed. In 2011, more than 5,300 cable systems were running. These served more than 34,000 communities and had about 60 million people subscribing to the service. The draw of cable television has grown, and it is now available in every state in the country. On top of this, it's now available in countries throughout the world. With so many people using the service, it’s hard to believe the humble beginnings.

There has also been a boom in the channels that are used in cable TV. Most cable providers offer a variety of packages for subscribers. However, even basic cable frequently offers more than 100 channels (more if you include HD channels into the mix). This gives you a large number of programs and stations to choose from any time of the day or night. Many of the channels offered are expansions of the basic service channels that are offered by non-cable. However, there are also several digital and premium stations available.

How the FCC Plays a Part

The Federal Communications Commission is a government branch that has had a say in what TV stations are able to show, and more. It wasn’t until 1966 that rules were set up for cable channels. The FCC was given jurisdiction over the CATV to help preserve the integrity of local broadcast television. Through the years, the FCC has added, amended, and changed rules regarding cable television. Some of these include standards for franchises, syndication and network programming rules, and signal carriage.

The Future of Cable

When looking at the past, it’s not a huge jump to wonder about the future of Cable TV. Some are concerned that cable television is dying out, due to the availability of television shows online. However, while cable may change, it is not going to be going away completely. Many cable providers are already making changes that will help them in the future, such as pairing with video game console producers and working with social networks. Since these things allow for a broader audience, they are helpful to ensure cable providers continue having customers.

In addition, many cable providers are starting to allow their customers to watch their programming on mobile devices. As more people go mobile, this will become common practice. The technology is available, and cable companies are taking advantage of these options. This is a great benefit to the customers, since they can watch what they want when they are able to. It’s also beneficial to the cable providers, as they can bring in more business this way.

Cable television has a long and interesting past. While considering this, it’s important to understand that as technology changes, the companies using that technology also have to grow and change. Luckily, many cable companies understand this and are taking the steps they need to take to ensure that they are a part of the future. 

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