Since the onset of cable television in the United States in the late 1940s, when a single community antenna was used to bring in distance TV signals to rural communities, the industry and technology have significantly changed and improved.
Now available to practically every American household, cable TV offers owners up to 500 channels or more, covering nearly every possible interest of video-based programming—from 24-hour news channels, sports of all likes, professional and amateur alike, dedicated classic movie channels, general interest programming, and niche-oriented programming channels, like those dedicated to science fiction, mysteries and more. Many consumers are left with so many options wondering how to choose the right TV service to fit all their needs.
In the past ten years, cable has made significant advances and improvements in what’s offered and how it’s offered. Most of the advances can be summed up in one word: interactivity. This means that while the cable system is broadcasting to a person’s house, that person is able to communicate back to the cable system by using a remote control that interacts with a set top box furnished by the cable operator.
Five major advances have occurred as a result of this interactivity:
On Demand Programming
Viewers have the ability to select and play programs and movies at will. Available movies and shows include historical, archived material, as well as the latest box-office hits. Many of these programs are included with your cable subscription, and some are available at a slight premium. The shows can be either “streamed” (shown immediately) or stored to the set top box hard drive for viewing at a more convenient time.
The advancement that has enabled digitizing of content has allowed the cable systems several liberties. For instance, they can “push” much more content down the cable running to your home, and the quality of the broadcast picture has progressed to bona fide High Definition television, with very high resolution and a life-like picture quality.
The digitization of content allows viewers to save multiple hours or episodes of favorite programs to the set top box. Some boxes are capable of storing hundreds of hours of programming.
Viewer appetite for “more” has fueled the cable companies to create additional premium channels. These, in turn, have created original programming to supplement their regular libraries, and the content is generally regarded as superior in quality to traditional network television.
Digital cable casting and the viewer’s ability to interact with the system has created innovations not previously available, such as interactive gaming on your cable system, or the ability to play video games in real time on your television set, without the need to buy additional special equipment, or to purchase or rent gaming software.
Another new innovation is the sophisticated search capabilities and indexing of programs and schedules. On most systems, you can search your TV’s available programming utilizing minute selections you choose, whether you are searching for shows featuring a particular actor, subject matter, genre, location or other.
Internet and More
The digitization of video content has freed up additional “bandwidth” (space) within the cable traveling from the system office to your house. This has enabled cable operators to offer a host of new services to subscribers, utilizing the same transmission method and hardware, without having to develop new paths to subscribers’ houses or requiring the purchase or rental of additional equipment.
The most popular addition is high-speed internet service, but some cable companies are also offering cable-based home telephone and home monitoring and security services.