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May 10, 2022 5:27 pm  #1

Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

This ad appeared in the U.S. TV Guide on May 10, 1969 - exactly 53 years ago today. It's incredible to read this and think about what television as we know it would have been like if these guys had succeeded. I love the hysterical (and totally false) claim that viewers would be "compelled" to subscribe to a service against their will and get a brand new bill that they'll be forced to pay!

A very strange moment in TV history.


May 10, 2022 6:40 pm  #2

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

Cable tv was first offered where I grew up in 1969/70.  Off air, we could receive CKCO Kitchener clearly, CHCH Hamilton, CFTO and CBC Toronto, the Buffalo stations were not always clear, and CKNX Wingham was hit and miss too. 

With cable, all of the above came in crystal clear, and additional stations from London, Barrie, and TVO was off air now.  And the local cable company had their own channel that covered things like local hockey games, church services, high school reports and local news every night, even a phone in talk show.  The cable company was locally owned and operated and all of this for about $8 per month. 

There was still some hesitation since you were paying for something that before was free.  But colour tv sales were just starting to get some traction and colour television is really bad without a clear signal.  Cable TV gave you that clear signal.  I remember that CFPL in London had the best most natural colour of all the stations offered. 


May 10, 2022 7:01 pm  #3

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

I Google street-viewed the address at the bottom of the ad, and the building was Paramount's NY headquarters. Guess they didn't want the competition.


May 10, 2022 7:06 pm  #4

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

RadioAaron wrote:

I Google street-viewed the address at the bottom of the ad, and the building was Paramount's NY headquarters. Guess they didn't want the competition.

That makes sense.  They probably thought that if people paid for cable it would eat up their entertainment money and they wouldn't spend it at the theatre.


May 10, 2022 7:48 pm  #5

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

It really wasn't the first time anyone tried Pay TV in either Canada or the U.S. There was this experiment called Telemeter that came to Canada in 1960 and literally was pay TV - you had to drop coins into a box in order to watch their specialized programming. 

For some reason, Etobicoke was their test market here and despite loads of hype, the thing just never caught on. (There simply wasn't the programming and the process was fairly complicated. Not to mention the fact that you had to actually put money into it, unlike later pay television, which came with a monthly bill, so it wasn't quite as jarring as sticking quarters into a slot.)

Ironically, considering the detective work of RadioAaron above, it was Paramount that was behind the system!

I love how the linked Time Magazine article includes an asterisk explaining to its readers how to properly pronounce "Etobicoke." 

"Last week in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke,* 1,000 TV-owning families could sit back and see a first-run movie or sports event uninterrupted by commercials. All they had to do was slip $1 in nickels, dimes or quarters into a box and push the button. Among the first shows: The Nun's Story, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The FBI Story."

* Pronounced Ee-to-be-coe.

Not exactly HBO!,9171,871558,00.html

(For some reason, I can't get a direct link to the article in question, so if you want to see it, copy and paste the full address above into your browser and it will come up.)

So what did these contraptions look like? Here's one from the Toronto test back in 1960:

     Thread Starter

May 10, 2022 8:46 pm  #6

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

While searching my archives for this thread, I came across something I didn't even realize I had - a CFTR piece on the coming of Pay TV to Canada back in 1981. It was several years after the U.S. had already had a taste of it, and - as usual - there were concerns American programming would totally dominate our system. 

I'll leave it to you to decide if that happened, but in this very early look at the new television system, there are predictions both right and wrong. One, that the World Series and the Super Bowl would only be available to viewers who paid for the privilege, did not happen. But another that you'd be able to see every game of your favourite team without blackouts did become a reality. 

Oh, and that prediction that it would only cost you $13 a month? I think we can rule that one out entirely. 

The piece features several bigwigs, including the guy who created HBO and then-City TV owner Moses Znaimer, who apparently was trying to start a pay TV service of his own called "Premiere." It never happened, but he did, of course, end up with a large number of cable channels, including MuchMusic and Fashion Television - not to mention CP24, among others. 

This two-part feature came from the station's short-lived documentary show called "Sunday Sunday," which aired across the country. 

Pay TV Parts I & II 

     Thread Starter

May 11, 2022 7:47 am  #7

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

My first experience with cable tv happened on a family vacation to Quebec City in the summer of 1969. We were on a family vacation to Quebec City. We had stopped for the night at a motel near Cornwall. The first thing I did was turn on the tv to see what channels were available. I was confused. How could you get Ch 5 Plattsburg on ch 5 [makes sense] and ch 5 Syracuse on ch 3 [???] When we returned home, one of my friends said it was something new called cable television. He said it might catch on because it eliminated the electrical interference from thunderstorms and the annoying screen flickering when a jet airplane flew over the neighbourhood and every channel was crystal clear.


May 11, 2022 11:17 am  #8

Re: Warning: The Evils Of Pay TV!

As a little kid in Scotland for the summer one of my Aunts had a TV with a coin box in the back.  TV goes off, pop in a few shillings.  One of the ways to pay for the annual license.  When I came home to Canada and started hearing about Pay TV, that's the first thing that popped in to my head!!