History of UK Cable
By law, these cable systems were restricted to the relay of the public broadcast channels, which meant that as the transmitter network became more comprehensive the incentive to subscribe to cable was reduced and they began to lose H customers. In 1982, a radical liberalisation of the law on cable was proposed by the Information Technology Advisory Panel, for the sake of promoting a new generation of broadband cable systems leading to the wired society. After setting up and receiving the conclusions of the Hunt Inquiry into Cable Expansion and Broadcasting Policy, the Government decided to proceed with liberalisation and two pieces of legislation. the Cable and Broadcasting Act and the Telecommunications Act, were enacted in 1984.
The result was that cable systems were permitted to carry as many new television channels as they liked, as well as providing a telephone service and interactive services of many kinds (as since made familiar by the Internet). To maintain the momentum of the perceived commercial interest in this new investment opportunity, in 1983 the Government itself granted eleven interim franchises for new broadband systems each covering a community of up to around 100,000 homes, but the competitive franchising process was otherwise left to the new regulatory body, the Cable Authority, which took on its powers from 1 January 1985.
The franchising process proceeded steadily, but the actual construction of new systems was slow, as doubts about an adequate payback from the substantial investment persisted. By the end of 1990 almost 15 million homes had been included in franchised areas, but only 828,000 of these had been passed by broadband cable and only 149,000 were actually subscribing. Thereafter, however, construction accelerated and take-up steadily improved.
The first new television channels launched for carriage on cable systems (going live in March 1984) were Sky Channel, Screensport, Music Box and TEN - the Movie Channel. Others followed, some were merged or closed down, but the range expanded. A similar flux was seen among the operators of cable systems franchises were granted to a host of different companies, but a process of consolidation saw the growth of large multiple system operators, until by early in the 2000s virtually the whole industry was in the hands of two companies, NTL and Telewest.
In 2005 it was announced that NTL and Telewest would merge, after a period of co-operation in the preceding few years. This merger was completed on 3 March 2006 with the company being named ntl Incorporated. For the time being the two brand names and services were marketed separately. However, following NTL's acquisition of Virgin Mobile, the NTL and Telewest services were rebranded Virgin Media on 2007-02-08 creating a single cable operator covering more than 95% of the UK cable market.
There are a small number of other surviving cable television companies in the UK outside of NTL including WightCable (Isle of Wight) and Smallworld (Ayrshire, Carlisle and Lancashire). Cable TV faces intense competition from British Sky Broadcasting's Sky Digital satellite television service. Most channels are carried on both platforms.
However, cable often lacks "interactive" features (e.g. text services, and extra video-screens), especially on BSkyB owned channels, and the satellite platform lacks services requiring high degrees of two-way communication, such as true video on demand. However, subscription-funded digital terrestrial television proved less of a competitive threat. The first system, ITV Digital, went into liquidation in 2002. Top Up TV later replaced it, however this service is shrinking as the DVB-T multiplex owners are finding FTA broadcasting more profitable.
potential source of competition in the future will be TV over broadband
internet connections; this is known as IPTV. Some IPTV services are
currently available in London, while services operated in Hull ceased in
April 2006. As the speed and availability of broadband connections
increase, more TV content can be delivered using protocols such as IPTV.
However, its impact on the market is yet to be measured, as is consumer
attitude toward watching TV programmes on computers instead of television
sets. At the end of 2006, BT (the UK's former
Wikipedia ‘Cable TV’ September 2008
© Michael Aldrich 2011