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Video: A Brief History of Broadcast and Cable TV (Part 1 of Learning Series)

Posted by Ashley J. Swartz on Apr 23, 2020 4:00:00 PM

The following video provides an overview of the history and evolution of traditional linear TV. It’s the first in a series of educational videos Furious has produced in collaboration with Beet.TV.  To explore Furious’s TV 101 Dictionary, which is a companion piece to this series, please click here. Here’s a sampling of Part 1:


National broadcasters and cable networks distribute their programming via satellite, but when we say “satellite provider” in the context of TV today, we are referring to the satellite distributors of TV that compete with cable operators.

The first direct broadcast service via satellite in the U.S. launched in 1991 and was called Primestar. Satellite providers are unique because they’re not limited to a geographical footprint like cable operators are. That’s because there’s no “final mile” they need to install (i.e., the bit of cable that has to run into a house to power a cable service). As a result, satellite providers are nationwide, which is important from an advertising perspective.

Meanwhile, once “rabbit ears” (the colloquialism for antenna) began to be replaced by set-top boxes in mass, retransmission fees became an increasingly significant share of revenue for local broadcast. These are the fees distributors pay to local broadcast stations to “retransmit” their over-the-air signals as channels to subscribers.

As a result of the increasing number of set-top boxes in people’s homes, more cable stations were created. This spike in programming led to more viewing and more inventory. National broadcasters wound up launching more and more cable networks to ensure they could capture as broad of an audience as possible. Their other motivation was to collect carriage fees from cable and satellite distributors in return for distribution of their network portfolio.

In any satellite or cable distribution agreement, the distributor (e.g., Comcast, Dish, etc.) is given two minutes or four 30-second spots to sell within each hour of programming. Although this might seem like a negligible amount of inventory, operators and satellite providers still have very substantial TV advertising businesses.

To learn more about the history and evolution of traditional linear TV, please click here.

TV Dictionary: Traditional TV Systems & Workflows

This video was presented by #BeetU. For more videos from the event, please visit this page

The original article was published at Beet.TV byon April 8