by Dave Zornow
Published in Cynopsis:Weekender newsletter, 12/20/07
We downsized earlier last year moving from our home of 13 years to a smaller space. Packing necessitated a through re-examination of our family’s possessions.
We found a lot of stuff we didn’t need, but we also found a few gems we didn’t know we had. Like a July 1967 edition of TV Guide. The feature story, “CATV: Four Letters That have Rocked Broadcasting” was promoted on the front cover with the teaser, “Coming: An Electronic Pipeline to Every Home.” The only mention of the word cable in the article was in a reference to the NCTA trade association.
Primetime programs in the Summer of ‘67 included The Twilight Zone, Batman, Lost in Space, Patty Duke and The Beverly Hillbillies. There was a Bob Hope Special on Wednesday night that ran opposite Green Acres. A box around the word COLORpreceded program descriptions that featured that “technology.”
The article offered some eye opening optimism for cable’s future.
“The beauty of CATV…is no technical limit to the number of channels…as engineers are working on systems providing 20, 30 or more.” With 1800 systems serving about 2 million subs, cable promised to offer advanced services including electronic newspapers, shopping, teaching, voting, gas and electric meter reading, library research, mail delivery and emergency warnings.
In 1967 broadcasters were split on cable’s potential – some seeing it as a threat and others welcoming the media as a way to improve reception in fringe areas. During a period when broadcasters owned 29% of all cable systems, the Bell Telephone System, prohibited from operating systems, wanted to get into the business by building and leasing systems to operators. And the Supreme Court was poised to rule on CATV’s use of copyrighted material without paying royalties.
A lot has changed since 1967. Shows like Star Trek and Bewitched are no longer prime time programming. Many are now available on cable, 24/7. ##
Dave Zornow is President/TNG Research, a media research consultancy and applications development company that works with media sellers and research providers
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