The rapid advancement and effects of technology continue to be a topic that warrants research and analysis. This sample dissertation explores the history and future of cable television.
History of television
The boob tube. The idiot box. The talking picture. These are just a few of the terms that describe the object that society has become obsessed with since it became popular. A 21-year-old man developed the first system. His name was Philo Taylor Farnsworth of San Francisco, California.he had spent more than half of his life without even having electricity (Stephens, 2016).
He had spent more than half of his life without even having electricity (Stephens, 2016). RCA was the next to jump on board, and in 1939 they began selling five by twelve-inch sets (Stephens, 2016). Americans finally had the opportunity to witness some of the most historically significant events of the times from the comfort of their living rooms.
- 1925: The television is tested publicly.
- 1928: The first television station is born; W3XK
- 1939: One of the first TV brands was RCA.
- 1950: Color TV is released to the public.
- 1969: The world watches the first man on the moon on TV.
- 1997: Panasonic releases the flat screen.
- 2009: America switches from analog to all-digital viewing. (Softschools, 2016).
Introducing cable TV
It was not too long after the television became possible that people began to get hungry for more than just three channels of news, variety shows, and sports. Originally called Community Antenna Television, or CATV, cable television began its journey in American society during WWII (BCAP, 2016). Unless a household was located in a larger city, getting television reception was nearly impossible.
The ingenuity of a small appliance store owner, John Walson, who was struggling with television sales because of the shoddy reception made it possible for those who had never watched a television before to not only enjoy it but to have one in their home. Walson’s idea to run wires from the antennas supplying reception soon caught on and neighboring towns jumped on board.
- 1948: Cable TV originates in Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania.
- 1962: 850,000 people subscribing to cable.
- 1972: HBO is founded.
- 1980: 16 million people subscribing to cable.
- 1995: 139 nationwide programming services.
- 2002: Digital Cable reaches 27% of cable customers.
- 2005: Cable’s high-speed Internet services have 27.6 million people subscribing. (NCTA, 2014)
Introducing satellite TV
After the radio wave wars ended, cable television exploded in the 1990s. With the influx of more network providers, more channels, and more televisions in every household, the American public began looking for different options. Satellite television began emerging in the early 1980s. It became the first threat to cable television. America became enthralled with get that just perfect angle on their dishes and set of terminology began to emerge. Terms, such as the following, began to define millions of television fanatics lives.
- Bandwidth: Range of frequencies occupied by a signal or allowed by receiving equipment (basically, what a receiver is capable of receiving). The required bandwidth for a TV channel is 6MHz; this would be able to carry either one analog TV channel or multiple digital TV programs.
- DirecTV: A DirecTV Satellite TV System, trademarked for the consumer hardware and created to receive DirecTV programming – includes a dish (standard size is 18-inch), a remote control, and the DirecTV Receiver.
- DISH Network: DISH Network Satellite TV System, trademarked for the consumer hardware and created to receive DISH Network programming, includes a typical 20-inch, remote control, and the DISH Network Receiver.
- Splitter: A splitter is a passive device or diplexer (one with no active electronic components), which distributes a television signal, carried on a cable in two or more paths and sends it to a number of receivers simultaneously.
- Transponder: It is a satellite component that receives, modulates, amplifies, and re-broadcasts a signal back to Earth. More than one television or audio channel can be transmitted over a signal transponder using MPEG compression. (PHTG, 2016).
It seemed as though everyone was becoming techies, and the battle of Cable versus Satellite began.
In “Consumers and Their Satellite Dishes,” Goolsbee and Petrin told us that, “The number of satellite customers has grown from 400,000 in 1994 to 10 million in 1999, making satellite dishes one of the fastest adopted consumer products in U.S. history” (Goolsbee, Petrin, 2002).
In retrospect, cable television’s days are beginning to be numbered at this point.
Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now
While everyone was scrambling to have their dishes installed, thus unlocking the world of thousands of channels, a new threat was beginning to emerge. As noted before, in 2005 digital cable began taking a strong foothold with the American public. The introduction of devices such as TiVo and other DVR’s has made it so consumers do not have to be glued to their sets in order to watch their favorite shows and movies. The emergence of on-demand streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and AmazonPrime, has caused dangerous ripples for cable service providers.
“In 2013 alone, 6.5 percent of American households ended their reliance on cable or satellite services in favor of a streaming-only watching experience” (RT International, 2014).
With so many smartphones, tablets, and hand-held gaming systems floating around out there, there is also an ease of accessibility that cable providers just cannot compete with. The statistics for the amount of subscriptions purchased by the American public is staggering.
Of all American TV households, subscriptions breakdown as follows:
- Netflix: 36%
- Amazon: 13%
- Hulu Plus: 6.5%
Some families are reported to have all three services, while most just have one (RT International, 2014). Others report watching streaming services not only on TV but also on their cell phones. This study was done in 2014, so it can safely be assumed that the numbers are on the rise as of 2016 if that trend continues. There are however two more statistics that are very interesting when analyzing this data:
- 35% do not subscribe to streaming services
- 24.5% do have a broadband connection at all (RT International, 2014).
The good news is that those services require Internet to materialize. Andrew Leonard, a technology reporter for Salon, quotes,
“Cable companies are the only telecommunication providers that have an infrastructure capable of delivering the kind of high-speed broadband that a Netflix-addicted nation craves,” he wrote.
“Comcast’s revenues and profits are both currently growing – largely due to strong growth in their new Internet access subscribers…You want ultra-high-def Netflix 4K – you will pay your cable provider for it.” (RT International, 2014)
With those facts in place, it is possible to assume that cable programming may be heading out the door, but cable service providers are still going to remain, rather extensively, in the loop.
The future of cable
What does the future hold for cable television? That seems to be the question of the hour. Katie Cox, a writer for Consumerist, has a theory. She presses the rewind button to 1996; taking us on a journey through the decades:
- 1996: We sat down in front of the TV and watched things live, as things aired.
- 2006: We still had cable, but we used DVRs. This was especially upsetting to advertisers.
- 2016: We may or may not have had cable, but there was some streaming involved.
This brings us to:
- 2026: We may only know what “cable” is because we see it at our grandparents’ house. (Cox, 2016)
Cox gives us a run through on when this started evolving. She pinpoints it down to 2015. Last year:
- Comcast had more Internet subscribers than TV subscribers.
- Streaming became 2/3 of all Internet traffic.
She continues to take us into the future to show us that network cable was being replaced. Another issue to consider when discussing the future of cable television is the cost. Sean Captain of FastCompany tells us,
Cable and satellite TV companies are not popular, consistently ranking near the bottom of customer satisfaction studies. One of the reasons is that Americans spend nearly $20 billion per year to rent set-top boxes from pay-TV providers. (Captain, 2016)
Why would Americans spend that astronomical amount of money when they can get their fill for $7.99 a month?
Is it out with the old and in with the new concerning cable television? It sure is beginning to look like it. Why is this happening? There are a variety of reasons why consumers are turning their backs on cable and “cutting the cord.”
- Technological advances have revolutionized convenience and accessibility of streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu.
- The lives of Americans are busier than ever, inhibiting the time to sit down to live programming.
- Smartphones, tablets, and hand-held gaming devices make it possible to avoid the TV altogether.
It is apparent that we will always rely on cable providers, to a certain extent, for the Internet services, but when Americans figure out how to get it on their own, cable television will become completely obsolete.
BCAP. “Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania.” BCAP. 2016. Web. 08 May 2016. http://www.bcapa.com/about/history.php.
Captain, Sean. “The Future Of How You Watch TV Could Change This Week.” Fast Company. 16 Feb. 2016. Web. 08 May 2016. http://www.fastcompany.com/3056706/tech-forecast/the-future-of-how-you-watch-tv-could-change-this-week.
Cox, Katie. “A Message From The Year 2026 About The Future Of Your TV.” Consumerist. 04 Jan. 2016. Web. 08 May 2016. https://consumerist.com/2016/01/04/a-message-from-the-year-2026-about-the-future-of-your-tv/,
Goolsbee, Austan D., and Amil K. Petrin. “Consumers and Their Satellite Dishes.” Chicago GSB Capital Ideas. 2002. Web. 08 May 2016. https://www.chicagobooth.edu/capideas/fall02/consumerssatellite.html.
NCTA. “Our Story.” NCTA. 2014. Web. 08 May 2016. https://www.ncta.com/who-we-are/our-story.
PHTG. “Digital Satellite TV: Glossary of Terms and Definitions.” Practical-Home-Theater-Guide.com. 19 Mar. 2016. Web. 08 May 2016. http://www.practical-home-theater-guide.com/satellite-tv-systems.html.
RT International. “Number of Cable ‘cord Cutters’ Continues to Rise.” RT International. 19 Apr. 2014. Web. 08 May 2016. https://www.rt.com/usa/cable-cutters-flock-netflix-hulu-532/.
Softschools. “Television Timeline.” Television Timeline. 2016. Web. 06 May 2016. http://www.softschools.com/timelines/television_timeline/31/.
Stephens, Mitchell. “History of Television – Mitchell Stephens.” History of Television – Mitchell Stephens. 1997. Web. 06 May 2016. https://www.nyu.edu/classes/stephens/History of Television page.htm.