During the 1980s and early 90s, the growing number of cable networks, improved programming, increased channel capacity (which reached 150 in some systems by 1992), and greater freedom in terms of programming content greatly expanded the industry. There now are more than 5,200 operating cable systems and some 660 cable operators in the United States serving some 53 million television subscribers. Viewers pay a monthly fee for a package of cable television programming, known as basic cable, and additional monthly fees for networks such as HBO, which are known as pay TV services. Cable television offers a wide variety of specialized programming, including channels devoted to specific interests, such as news, sports, movies, business information, weather, cooking, home shopping, and family viewing. It can also transmit programs from foreign cities, such as the proceedings of the British House of Commons. The industry finances its programming from subscriber fees and advertising revenue. New technologies, such as fiber optics, digital compression, and interactive television, allow cable operators to offer more programming choices and services. The cable lines installed by cable operators are also used to provide broadband Internet access, telephone service, burglar- and fire-alarm protection, and high-quality radio broadcasts to the homes of subscribers.
See G. Mair, Inside HBO (1984); T. Baldwin, Cable Communications (1988).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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