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View Full Version : Cable TV has ads, so why isn't it free?


curious george
10-21-1999, 04:10 PM
It seems when cable tv was first starting around 1980, the idea was that customers would pay a monthly fee but there would be no commercials. However, as long as I have had cable tv, it has had commercials and the monthly fee keeps rising. Why do customers put up with this?

Broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) is free because it has ads. PBS is free and has no ads, but it is government supported. I think cable tv companies are making out like bandits by getting user fees AND advertising revenue. Storm the bastille!

pluto
10-21-1999, 04:15 PM
The one that torques my cork is NPR. I'm tired of listening to this "non-commercial" radio station and hearing about "today's day sponsor" and "made possible by a grant from" the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, or whatever. (Well, I actually like that announcement, but you know what I mean.)

So either lose the pledge breaks or the "non-commercials".

There. I feel better.


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"After all, she was not very much older...and a plump widowhood has its appeal."
Dorothy L. Sayers
Murder Must Advertise

RealityChuck
10-21-1999, 04:26 PM
Cable TV did not start up in the 1980s. I had cable back in 1964, and probably earlier (I know we had it the night of the great Northeast blackout -- we were the only place on the east coast that still had power that night).

Originally, cable was set up so that people in poor reception areas could get stations they couldn't get before (We went from three broadcast stations -- if you had a UHF tuner, which wasn't standard equipment -- to twelve). Later, it was sold to metropolitan areas as a way to get better reception and out-of-town stations. Later, HBO came along and people were asked to pay for content.

Now it's more complicated. In my area, you have basic cable (the stations you could get if you had an antenna), expanded basic (out-of-town broadcast stations), and premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.). Your cable bill for basic and expanded basic cover the broadcast stations and cable-only stations that broadcast ads (TNT, ESPN, Comedy Central, etc.). Your cable bills for these pay the cable company for its expenses and profits. The stations and cable networks have to get money to pay their expenses, so they sell ads. The cable companies may also be allowed to sell ads as part of the deal they have with the stations, but that's only a small part of their revenues. For the most part, your cable bill goes to the cable company and the ad revenues goes to the broadcaster. Premium networks like HBO get all their money fom user fees.

The best answer to cutting your cable bill is to do what I do: don't have cable. I haven't had it for about 20 years. There are more important things lin life than TV.

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www.sff.net/people/rothman (http://www.sff.net/people/rothman)

ThePolecat
10-21-1999, 04:28 PM
The cable channels use the money from the commercials to pay for their shows and make a profit.

Cable companies use subscriber money, and in some areas inserted commericials, to pay the cable companies to carry their programming. The more popular the station (i.e. ESPN) the more expensive the subscription fee.

Also, if NPR got rid of one or the other of their form of sponsership, they would have to have uch more of the other. I don't think you can win, pluto.

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As long as my bottle opener is Y2K compliant, I'll be okay.

Fear Itself
10-21-1999, 05:19 PM
The short answer is that cable cable companies charge for their programming because they can, and our free market economy allows them to charge what ever the market will bear; supply and demand, and all that.

Broadcast TV (NBC, ABC, CBS) is free because it has ads.

Actually, it's the other way around; broadcast TV has ads because it is free; and it is free because of the Communications Act of 1934, which established that the airwaves are a public domain. No one can prevent me from owning (or building) a TV or radio receiver that can pick up any broadcast signal.

However, cable is different because it does not use the public airwaves; their system of cables is private, therefore they can legally prevent you from using an illegal cable decoder box, or from hooking up to their system without paying. The only alternative is to pay for their decoder or cable connection; if you don't like it, well, you can just go back to the rabbit ears.

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TT

"Believe those who seek the truth.
Doubt those who find it." --Andre Gide

aseymayo
10-21-1999, 05:47 PM
the idea was that customers would pay a monthly fee but there would be no commercials

Sorry, never heard that one before. You have to pay for cable channels with commercials because they, unlike broadcast channels, have to pay for pricey things like satellite time.

You can't really blame public TV and radio - they had to really go after private sector money when the govt. slashed their funding. If we voted to get them more money, do you think they'd get rid of the commercials?

Nickrz
10-21-1999, 05:49 PM
Public Broadcasting channels in this country are caught in a cash crunch - they cannot get by on private donations. They had to court the big corporate sponsors and believe me, they started inserting these brief references to their big donors only with the greatest of reluctance.

Give them a break. If the cheap shits in this country would pony up all the dough they need without being nagged every six months, we could do without the pledge drives and the "commercials." As it is, it's a small price to pay for the quality fare we get - at least the programs themselves are free from intrusion, and are frequently the only thing on TV worth watching. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Preach mode/off.

handy
10-21-1999, 06:31 PM
Stations aren't doing as much business these days. So they have to add more commercials. Right now during the day there are slightly more minutes of commericals, about 22 min/ hour, to make more money, which is a horrendous amount of time.

But then I have a commercial skip vcr. & don't watch most of them anyway.

Andy
10-21-1999, 07:10 PM
Sorry to zoom off at a tangent, but i heard about vcr's which don't record the adverts a few years ago. I didn't know they were widely available...i imagined the big controlling interests in marketing would have bought the design and quitely consigned it to the dustbin. In the UK i have NEVER seen an ad-skipping vcr.

10-22-1999, 12:50 AM
And hey, my new issue of Newsweek is full of ads too! My subscription should be free!

ubermensch
10-22-1999, 03:52 AM
"Sorry to zoom off at a tangent, but i heard about vcr's which don't record the adverts a few years ago. I didn't know they were widely available"

from what i hear, they worked for a bit, then "the man", or actually the tv entities decided to change the format of what came across the air in terms of lines of resolution (instead of 525, it was 520 or something). so it turned the technology that the vcr used to determine when a commercial started against the vcr it self. it either never recorded, or it recorded everything.
if yer interested in non commercial tv taping, look into vivo or replay, 2 hard disc recorders out there on the market. you can watch tv through them, 'pause' when you get interrupted, and start watching again. you can fast forward through the commercials then.

ThePolecat
10-22-1999, 08:23 AM
To continue on the line of commercial skip VCR's, I have a new style one from Panasonic. The older style ones used to stop recording when the commercial came on and then started up again when the show started. Whether or not the TV stations started changing their transition signals, sometimes these VCRs would not start recording when the should. The new style that I have records the whole program with commercials and then rewinds and marks where the commercials are. When you play the program back, it fast forwards as soon as the commercial blocks start and then slows down when to start when the program starts. I don't know how it does it, but it's cool as hell.

BTW, I've got the Dish Network with M2, the MTV channel that just plays videos (does anyone recall when that's what MTV was before it decided to become the voice of the slacker generation with poorly done series) and it doesn't have any commercials. It is also cool as hell.


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As long as my bottle opener is Y2K compliant, I'll be okay.

DougC
10-22-1999, 08:34 AM
- - - I do remember when they said that cable TV wouldn't need to have any commercials. I never saw it, but I did hear about it.
- - - I also remember when MTV played only music videos. I refer to that time period as "back when I watched MTV". - MC
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- Martha is still cute as a button -

tanstaafl
10-22-1999, 10:35 AM
I do remember when they said that cable TV wouldn't need to have any commercials. I never saw it, but I did hear about it.

There are cable channels with no commercials. Think HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and the other "movie" channels.

When cable first started taking off, there were very few of what we now think of as "cable channels". Back in the late '70s when I first saw cable it carried the local broadcast channels, HBO and Showtime, and only one or two "other" channels. (I think USA Network and ESPN.) USA and ESPN had commercials, HBO and Showtime did not. I suspect the marketers thought there would be a much bigger market for the movie channels than for the others.

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"Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China."

Dennis Matheson --- dennis@mountaindiver.com
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb --- www.mountaindiver.com (http://www.mountaindiver.com)

John W. Kennedy
10-22-1999, 10:55 AM
Back in the 50's and 60's, cable TV was imagined as a medium for pay-only service along the lines of HBO. But no one wanted to pay for what they could get for free.

Several things changed this.

CATV (Community Antenna TV) was used to get TV reception in bad areas. Naturally, someone had to pay for the cable.

With the collapse of the old Production Code, much more unbroadcastable material became available.

Once cable was in place, it became economically viable to set up small commercial-supported feeds. Thus the USA Network and the like.

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John W. Kennedy
"Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays."
-- Charles Williams

handy
10-23-1999, 01:00 AM
Commercial advance & commercial skip are similar but not the same. Its correct, they do record all the program & FF thru them when you play it back.

I also have a kind of film advance feature that you put in a video & it finds the start of the film for ya.

Got so many features on the RCA vcr for $119.00 that I havent learned them all. For example, the search button can be pressed like one to three times to get a new feature for each press.

ronenfe
05-13-2016, 08:01 PM
What you are saying that all this money goes to the cable company doesn't make sense because:
1. It's way too expensive for what their expenses are. All they need is to connect your house with a cable to a relay or something?
2. Why don't the cable channels broadcast for free over the air and get more people to watch them so they can sell commercial times for higher price?
3. There are cable channels without ads. How do they earn money then?

Arrendajo
05-13-2016, 08:08 PM
Fifteen years down the road and we're still paying for cable TV. When will the madness end?

nearwildheaven
05-13-2016, 08:37 PM
I realized this was a zombie thread when I saw all the references to VCRs.

I remember when cable TV in Des Moines was $8 a month, in the late 1970s, and an addition $8 if you wanted HBO. Most cable subscribers wanted it for the HBO, and honestly, the lineup is STILL worth about $8 a month, and yes, I do mean in 2016 dollars. :o

http://www.desmoinesbroadcasting.com/misc/cablelineup-70s.html

In the meantime, PBS has basically been bought out by the Kochs. I, and some people on another website, have wondered if it was done so PBS would not air this movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2545338/

kunilou
05-13-2016, 08:59 PM
What you are saying that all this money goes to the cable company doesn't make sense because:
1. It's way too expensive for what their expenses are. All they need is to connect your house with a cable to a relay or something?

And run cable lines all over the area, and pay the phone company or the electric company or whoever's right-of-way they use for the right to run cable over the other guy's property; and pay for the satellite dishes and switching equipment and relays and amplifiers, etc.; and pay for the ongoing maintenance you have when you have lots of expensive electronic equipment in people's back yards. Not to mention that they have to pay for the channels they carry.

2. Why don't the cable channels broadcast for free over the air and get more people to watch them so they can sell commercial times for higher price?

Because there are a limited number of over the air channels in any given area. If you try to squeeze in more over the air stations, then you end up interfering with the ones in the next area.

3. There are cable channels without ads. How do they earn money then?

They charge the cable companies a fee for each subscriber, which gets folded into that cable bill that's too high. This is a little out of date (http://uproxx.com/tv/how-much-do-you-pay-for-each-of-those-cable-channels-you-dont-watch/), but you'll get the idea.

seal_cleaner
05-13-2016, 11:04 PM
Could this be the record for the oldest zombie revival?

pkbites
05-13-2016, 11:10 PM
Could this be the record for the oldest zombie revival?


FUCK!:mad:

Observation beaten by, like, 5 minutes! :mad:

pkbites
05-13-2016, 11:14 PM
Any way, we had cable in 1980 and, with the exception of HBO, Cinemax, and SelecTV [anyone here remember that? Even without cable you could get it. Comment if you remember why.] Everything else had commercials.

I knew someone with cable in 1974. we were in awe of the 30 channels they had. :cool:;)

usedtobe
05-14-2016, 02:05 AM
data point:

II was at a presentation for "cable TV" in a small town circa 1964:

Their spiel:
"This is just like having a neighbor with a really good TV antennae and hooking up your TV to his antennae!"
Just a few pennies a month and NO COMMERCIALS!

Ever see the "public access" channel on a hick town's cable?

But yeah, the original deal was "pay cash and never see a commercial again".

By the 80's, the newspaper's 'TV Viewing Guide" was a mess - trying to list all broadcast + 'basic cable' + 'premium cable (BRAVO) - they quit after the listings started covering an entire page.

I have never had cable and was mildly amused to learn that commercials had taken residence on cable.

cochrane
05-14-2016, 03:26 AM
Because there are a limited number of over the air channels in any given area. If you try to squeeze in more over the air stations, then you end up interfering with the ones in the next area.

While it's true there are a limited number of frequencies, with digital OTA transmission broadcasters can now split their bandwidth to effectively triple the number of channels in an area. Each station can broadcast multiple signals over a single frequency. Most of the stations in my area broadcast three different subchannels, for example, the main CBS channel on 13.1, Me TV on 13.2, and Grit on 13.3. One station in my area even has four subchannels, although theoretically picture quality suffers if one frequency is split into too many channels, especially if one of them is supposed to be in HD. I can pick up seven stations in my area broadcasting a total of 21 channels.

Derleth
05-14-2016, 03:34 AM
Fifteen years down the road and we're still paying for cable TV. When will the madness end?In Capitalist America, only old people bother with television.

(Hey, Slashdot was still relevant in 1999!)

The whole concept of appointment entertainment is becoming a cultural touchstone: Do you feel like it's worthwhile to schedule part of your life around consuming a specific show at a specific time? People prior to radio largely didn't, as print didn't suffer from that limitation, and now people subsequent to television won't put up with such nonsense, either.

That takes us from the 1920s to the 2020s, at least in round numbers. A century of appointments.

(Sports is, of course, the exception. It will be interesting to see how broadcast media survive going to all sports all the time.)

((News isn't even an exception. I thought it was for a while, too, but most news can be time-delayed quite a bit and still be relevant. Newspapers work that way, after all. The only news which can't be time-delayed is emergency announcements, like warnings of imminent storms or other disaster, and that's typically handled separately from news, anyway.))

bob++
05-14-2016, 04:43 AM
Over here in the UK I have something like 100 channels on my OTA TV. I could subscribe to cable, or I could subscribe to internet TV but since the only real advantage is sport, I choose not to.

In fact we only watch five or six of the channels on a regular basis and 90% of what we do watch is time shifted. Two of the channels are BBC (no ads) and the rest commercial so it's partly to skip through ads and partly to skip through the boring bits of shows like X Factor.

The BBC isn't free - it costs around 12 a month, but apart from the initial purchase of equipment, that's it.

jtur88
05-14-2016, 09:26 AM
The short answer is, the Cable company has no control of the content. They just provide you with a signal from stations without regard to whether they are commercial or not, and they charge you according to their cost for the transmission of that signal. If the stations carried by the cable company charge the cable company a fee, the cable company either carries the station and passes that fee on to you, or drops the offending channels.

Me_Billy
05-14-2016, 09:47 AM
I DON'T put up with it!

I had my cable disconnected 10 years ago. They kept increasing their prices and would not allow me to just buy the channels I wanted ( la carte), so I said BYE BYE!

ftg
05-14-2016, 01:28 PM
In both the zombie and revived parts, there's this weird idea that cable TV was/is somehow commercial-free related.

What the what?????

A relative of mine installed cable TV in our remote, small town in the mid 50s. All it did was relay two channels from UHF repeaters. Both commercial stations, of course.

That was the core of cable TV for a long time.

When satellite rebroadcasting became widespread, almost all the new channels had commercials. Exceptions were pay channels like HBO and SHO and a very few paid via other methods. E.g., shopping channels which were basically all commercials, etc.

Even back in the day when we had "only" ~24 channels, only 4 were commercial free: 3 pay channels and 1 community channel. Hardly a ratio that would lead someone to think it was all supposed to be commercial free.

Note that ads aren't enough to support most channels. ESPN charges cable companies a large amount/subscriber which gets passed on to the viewer. Almost all local channels get a fee from the cable companies which contribute a very large chunk of these stations revenue nowadays. (Which leads to those occasional disputes where a cable station and a local channel can't agree on a fee. The cable company has the nuclear option of not carrying the channel. The local channel has the anti-nuclear option of forcing the cable company to carry it, but then can't charge a fee.)

BTW: We only watch commercial free TV now, in a sense. We FF on our DVR.

filmore
05-14-2016, 01:58 PM
One thing that's relevant to this question in 2016 is: Why don't cable networks make their channels available for live streaming for everyone?

Many cable stations have streaming channels, but often it's only available to customers who already have cable. For example, if you have DirectTV, you can get CNN, FX, and others on your streaming device. The channel will ask you to log into your DirectTV account and verify your service currently gets that channel. But if you don't have cable service, then you can't watch the channel. It seems that these cable networks would welcome the additional viewers since the streaming content still has commercials.

Channing Idaho Banks
05-14-2016, 02:05 PM
I finally threw out my VCR's because there wasn't enough time, now I have a DVR and I have even less time and more shows to watch. I can never keep up.

nearwildheaven
05-14-2016, 02:21 PM
Ever see the "public access" channel on a hick town's cable?

My grandmother lived in a town of 6,000 people all her life, and had cable TV in the 1970s. As children, we were fascinated by the channel that broadcasted the weather all the time. A camera moved back and forth between a barometer, a thermometer, and another device I can't recall right now. :p ETA: IIRC, they also played Muzak which we didn't like quite so much.

In 1994, I was in Decorah, Iowa to attend a concert by the alt-rock bands Sugar and Magnapop (the former had Bob Mould as frontman). You know you're in a small town when they advertise a rock concert on the same public-access community billboard as church bazaars and the band booster chili supper! :D

My local cable carrier has http://www.classicartsshowcase.org/ , which I love. It's also broadcasted from a local college, and this is sometimes pre-empted by college programming. Anyway, it's commercial-free and will remain so as long as there's funding.

Thudlow Boink
05-14-2016, 02:48 PM
It has long been common for newspapers and magazines, which are not free, to run ads. So why would anyone assume that it's mutually exclusive for a content provider's revenue to come from consumers vs. advertisers?

dtilque
05-14-2016, 03:20 PM
Could this be the record for the oldest zombie revival?

Nope, this recent thread (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=19) is about half a year older. this one (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=4243) is roughly the same age.

Arrendajo
05-14-2016, 04:33 PM
In both the zombie and revived parts, there's this weird idea that cable TV was/is somehow commercial-free related.

What the what?????

A relative of mine installed cable TV in our remote, small town in the mid 50s. All it did was relay two channels from UHF repeaters. Both commercial stations, of course.

That was the core of cable TV for a long time.

When satellite rebroadcasting became widespread, almost all the new channels had commercials. Exceptions were pay channels like HBO and SHO and a very few paid via other methods. E.g., shopping channels which were basically all commercials, etc.

Even back in the day when we had "only" ~24 channels, only 4 were commercial free: 3 pay channels and 1 community channel. Hardly a ratio that would lead someone to think it was all supposed to be commercial free.


That wasn't Elko, Nevada, was it? I moved there from Boise in 1978 and that was the first time I had access to cable TV. I was told that Elko was one of the first towns to get cable TV. It is too far from Salt Lake City, Reno, and Boise to pick up broadcast signals even with rooftop antennas. I don't ever remember anyone thinking cable should be free. In Elko I got the broadcast channels from Reno and SLC and a bunch of independent California stations I had never heard of, along with HBO and a few other satellite channels. We also got a bunch of FM radio stations from Reno and SLC. I thought it was wonderful and well worth the price of $5/month or whatever it was.

kunilou
05-14-2016, 04:50 PM
While it's true there are a limited number of frequencies, with digital OTA transmission broadcasters can now split their bandwidth to effectively triple the number of channels in an area. Each station can broadcast multiple signals over a single frequency. Most of the stations in my area broadcast three different subchannels, for example, the main CBS channel on 13.1, Me TV on 13.2, and Grit on 13.3. One station in my area even has four subchannels, although theoretically picture quality suffers if one frequency is split into too many channels, especially if one of them is supposed to be in HD. I can pick up seven stations in my area broadcasting a total of 21 channels.

Nevertheless, there's still a limit to how many channels are allocated in a given area. I can receive 29 channels over the air (although they usually break up badly, which is a major reason I have cable) while my cable provider offers roughly 300.

One thing that's relevant to this question in 2016 is: Why don't cable networks make their channels available for live streaming for everyone?
Because if I'm a cable provider, your channel is valuable to me because people have to subscribe to me to receive it. If you stream your channel on the internet so anyone can watch it, I'll take it off my cable lineup. Then you'll lose the guaranteed three cents per subscriber the cable company is willing to pay for your content.

ftg
05-15-2016, 08:54 AM
One thing that's relevant to this question in 2016 is: Why don't cable networks make their channels available for live streaming for everyone?

As mentioned, it's the magazine model now. Both OTA and basic cable channels get a large chunk of their revenue from shared cable/sat revenues. Not just ads.

Also, for a cable company to profit off of non-subscribers using their bandwidth, they'd have to insert a lot more ads than they currently do. (There's a small amount of ad time they are allowed to replace with their own ads based on deals with the channel providers.) More cable company ads means fewer provider ads means more conflict over a smaller revenue base.

nearwildheaven
05-15-2016, 03:03 PM
BTW, I've got the Dish Network with M2, the MTV channel that just plays videos (does anyone recall when that's what MTV was before it decided to become the voice of the slacker generation with poorly done series) and it doesn't have any commercials. It is also cool as hell.

Sounds like Classic Arts Showcase with a different genre of music. :cool:

jtur88
05-15-2016, 06:25 PM
I DON'T put up with it!

I had my cable disconnected 10 years ago. They kept increasing their prices and would not allow me to just buy the channels I wanted ( la carte), so I said BYE BYE!

I haven't caught up with you yet, but I canceled mine in October '14, so that's 20 months, at $70 plus tax. About $1500. I haven't missed a minute of it. I can get local channels with a paper clip antenna. Meanwhile, I just paid my credit card statement, including a round-the-world plane ticket booked for this August, $1450. Manila, Brunei, Qatar, Addis Ababa. I can go wherever I want, every two years, for the cost of cable.

Anybody envy me?

UltraVires
05-15-2016, 07:07 PM
This is mostly hearsay from my grandfather who died in 1993, but was around in the 40s and was always trying ways to get new television signals:

In West Virginia, reception is spotty because of the hills and valleys. There were only two local channels (5-CBS, and 12-NBC) that one could get from rabbit ears. I remember as a kid putting aluminum foil and touching the foil to something metal to get better (or sometimes worse) reception.

But, hey look, there is a big hill overlooking our small town. We can put a big ass antenna up there, send it down the hill, split it around to our neighbors, boost the hell out of it, and get channels from Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Stuebenville, OH, Charleston, etc.

The first "cable" television system was basically a business model whereby if you wanted my grandfather to run a line from his antenna to your house, you agreed as a neighbor to chip in part of the cost.

I remember mornings where we woke up and there was nothing on TV. The old lady up the road called shortly thereafter. Granddad and I would take his 13" b&w portable tv and other equipment up the hill to test the signal. Good signal at the antenna! No signal at the bottom of the hill.

We go to the halfway point and get a good signal! We spend several hours rinsing and repeating until we see that a deer got tangled in the cable at a certain point and we repair it. Then that evening, we enjoy our eight channels of entertainment! (Three carrying the same broadcast).

I remember being able to watch the Pirates on KDKA channel 2 out of Pittsburgh. Nobody except our "cable" subscribers could see that in this area.

As I sit in the very same house where that system was installed, I wonder what Granddad would think of 700 channels, YouTube, Netflix, etc. at the touch of a keystroke. My guess is that he would probably try to figure out a way for more bandwidth. :)

amaguri
05-17-2016, 05:07 PM
[derail ahead] I like when a completely new cable channel launches and the ad team apparently hasn't been able to sell all of their airtime so you end up with a mix of obscure, unusual and generally crummy ads until they can catch up.

In other news, I am easily amused :)

cochrane
05-17-2016, 05:30 PM
Nevertheless, there's still a limit to how many channels are allocated in a given area. I can receive 29 channels over the air (although they usually break up badly, which is a major reason I have cable) while my cable provider offers roughly 300.


I must be lucky. All of my channels come in clear and steady as if they were on the cable with just a set of rabbit ears, including one from 45 miles away. And my set top box has a PVR which costs me nothing to use. I really only watch 16 of the channels on a regular basis, but I also save an additional $115 a month that I was previously paying for cable.

brujaja
05-18-2016, 04:10 AM
Sorry, never heard that one before.

Oh, it's true, though! Once upon a time there was only broadcast television. Then, at least where I grew up, there was something called a "public access channel" (which was cable) and provided a venue for truly eccentric people to just let it all hang out.

BUT when they first introduced the idea of "Pay-TV" everybody was all, like, "What? I get 'Streets of San Francisco' and 'Gunsmoke' and Walter Cronkite already for free! Why the hell should I shell out a lot of good money for cable?"

And at first, the answer was "Porn." That was the main selling point of cable at first -- Ron Jeremy 24/7.

A little while later, the answer was indeed "No commercials!"

The proof being that, for a loong time after that, there WERE no commercials on cable TV.

curious george, I'm with you 100% on this one! This is my very most pet peeve, right after improper use of the apostrophe. It really, really bothers me how some people sit around all day getting paid to figure out how to get us to start paying for something we currently get for free. Like, it used to be that if you were looking for a place to rent or a job, you looked in the want ads which the landlord or employer paid a small fee for. Then these guys came along with the idea of the ad's TARGETS paying a huge fee to a middleman because only they had the "good" listings. Thank god the internet (and Craigslist) put a stop to that. Well, sort of.

The other part of this whole scam is that commercials on cable TV, which everyone back in the day signed up for to get away from commercials -- those ads now take up fully one third of every hour, far more than they ever did on broadcast TV.

ronenfe
05-23-2016, 02:10 PM
Nevertheless, there's still a limit to how many channels are allocated in a given area. I can receive 29 channels over the air (although they usually break up badly, which is a major reason I have cable) while my cable provider offers roughly 300.


Because if I'm a cable provider, your channel is valuable to me because people have to subscribe to me to receive it. If you stream your channel on the internet so anyone can watch it, I'll take it off my cable lineup. Then you'll lose the guaranteed three cents per subscriber the cable company is willing to pay for your content.

What I'm thinking is the channels earn more money by getting paid from the cable companies than broadcasting over the air and get more rating.
That's the reason they don't go OTA too.

Do Not Taunt
05-23-2016, 03:11 PM
I realized this was a zombie thread when I saw all the references to VCRs.I was a big fan of seeing this sig!


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As long as my bottle opener is Y2K compliant, I'll be okay.Really takes ya back..

DrCube
05-23-2016, 03:27 PM
In both the zombie and revived parts, there's this weird idea that cable TV was/is somehow commercial-free related.

What the what?????


It has long been common for newspapers and magazines, which are not free, to run ads. So why would anyone assume that it's mutually exclusive for a content provider's revenue to come from consumers vs. advertisers?

1) Because the two biggest cable stations started out explicitly commercial-free. HBO still is, if I recall correctly. MTV dropped that policy like a bad habit in the mid-80s.

2) Because we often hear (nowadays) about how "if you're not paying, you're not the customer, you're the product" or "if you don't like ads, pay the programmer!" or some other condemnation based on the idea that "freemium" business models (where you pay to get rid of ads, but the product is free otherwise) are the only kind.

The internet/mobile apps are basically repeating the same kind of experimentation with business models that the cable industry did in the 60s-80s, so these sorts of questions are being discussed again.

ftg
05-23-2016, 06:00 PM
1) Because the two biggest cable stations started out explicitly commercial-free. HBO still is, if I recall correctly. MTV dropped that policy like a bad habit in the mid-80s.

Here's (http://mentalfloss.com/article/28399/mtvs-first-hour-air-i-mean-cable) the first hour of MTV ... well, in text form The video's have been deleted due to copyrights. But it does describe the first commercials 10 minutes in.

It's silly to think that all but a few basic cable channels were commercial free. HBO (1974) was pay-tv, of course. But not TBS (1976), ESPN (1979), CNN (1980), etc. USA, Lifetime, Discovery, and such were always commercial.

Some of the exceptions: The original version of Bravo was pay-tv like HBO, then for a while was commercial-free relying on cable company fees and donations, then finally got commercials and sold its soul. Disney did something similar.

I'm not sure if CBN, a very early satellite channel, was commercial-free.

Unless you were subscribed only to pay channels like HBO via cable* and got your other programming OTA, your had a lot of commercial cable channels.

* Other non-cable ways of getting programming we've lost includes microwave distribution direct to homes. A funky small square antenna on top of the house, etc. For those, HBO was a supplement to regular OTA programming. But also "not cable", technically.

fiddlesticks
05-25-2016, 05:14 PM
Nickelodeon was ad-free in its very early years.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
05-26-2016, 03:55 AM
It seems when cable tv was first starting around 1980, the idea was that customers would pay a monthly fee but there would be no commercials. However, as long as I have had cable tv, it has had commercials and the monthly fee keeps rising. Why do customers put up with this?


Cable goes back a bit farther than that. The initial problem to be solved wasn't commercials, but poor OTA reception in remote or hilly areas/neighborhoods. Where before you almost always had to put up with flecks or even "snow", once you had cable the picture was crystal clear. Let's see...in L.A., without cable, we had channels 2, 4, 5, 7,9,11, 13, and those were the three national networks plus a few other local stations. When we got cable around 1970, we continued to have those channels, and the commercials were the same, although I think there weren't nearly as many commercials back then. With cable, as well, we could watch all the formerly unused channels now, as well, but they weren't those actual channels. Channel 6, for example, was PBS, which in turn was really Channel 28. We could barely pull that in with a UHF antenna before. Channel 12 on the dial became UHF channel 52, which used to feature some interesting odds and ends, including an early version of what eventually became Turner Classic Movies.

So apart from PBS, and from a new prototype movie channel "Z" that came in a few years later, all those stations had commercials.

Lord Feldon
05-26-2016, 04:38 AM
Other non-cable ways of getting programming we've lost includes microwave distribution direct to homes. A funky small square antenna on top of the house, etc. For those, HBO was a supplement to regular OTA programming. But also "not cable", technically.

I looked this up to get more details about it, and wow, they sued people who kept the antenna up after canceling service. (http://articles.philly.com/1986-01-22/news/26052731_1_dish-hbo-antenna)

ftg
05-26-2016, 07:57 AM
I looked this up to get more details about it, and wow, they sued people who kept the antenna up after canceling service. (http://articles.philly.com/1986-01-22/news/26052731_1_dish-hbo-antenna)

Since they were using the public airwaves to broadcast a signal, they couldn't encrypt the signal.* So people could get an old antenna, buy a receiver from an ad in the back of certain magazines and watch HBO for free. (An ex-BIL did this.) Being a microwave signal, the antenna pretty much had to be out in the open.

* I'd guess that rule no longer applies. It wouldn't apply to things like cell phone calls since those aren't "broadcast" to many people.

cochrane
05-26-2016, 03:00 PM
Since they were using the public airwaves to broadcast a signal, they couldn't encrypt the signal.* So people could get an old antenna, buy a receiver from an ad in the back of certain magazines and watch HBO for free. (An ex-BIL did this.) Being a microwave signal, the antenna pretty much had to be out in the open.

* I'd guess that rule no longer applies. It wouldn't apply to things like cell phone calls since those aren't "broadcast" to many people.

My dad knew "someone" at Hughes Aircraft (now Raytheon) in Tucson and bought an HBO receiver and dish from him. Apparently nobody from HBO noticed as we never received a notice from them. Eventually cable came to our area and we became a subscriber.

oara
05-26-2016, 03:06 PM
I first saw cable television in 1997, and I was pretty surprised that it had ads.
And also that hbo would play the same movies constantly. Pretty disappointing.
But the web came along and who needed television?

Steve MB
05-26-2016, 03:09 PM
What I find really annoying are the ads on some of the channels on SiriusXM -- it's not bad enough to get ads after paying to get the content, but to add insult to injury the ads are all the sort of blatant one-step-ahead-of-the-bunko-squad crap (get-rich-quick, miracle-cure, etc) you'd expect to find on a local Podunk station at 3AM.