Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to paying subscribers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables or, in the 2010s, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television, in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.
A "cable channel" (sometimes known as a "cable network") is a television network available via cable television. When available through satellite television, including direct broadcast satellite providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network and BSkyB, as well as via IPTV providers such as Verizon FIOS and AT&T U-verse is referred to as a "satellite channel". Alternative terms include "non-broadcast channel" or "programming service", the latter being mainly used in legal contexts. Examples of cable/satellite channels/cable networks available in many countries are HBO, MTV, Cartoon Network, E!, Eurosport and CNN International.
The abbreviation CATV is often used for cable television. It originally stood for Community Access Television or Community Antenna Television, from cable television's origins in 1948. In areas where over-the-air TV reception was limited by distance from transmitters or mountainous terrain, large "community antennas" were constructed, and cable was run from them to individual homes. The origins of cable for radio are even older as radio programming was distributed by cable in some European cities as far back as 1924.
History in the USA and Canada
Cable television has gone through a series of evolutions in the United States and Canada. From its founding, it primarily served small communities without access to a television station, or ones with an adverse location that prevented reception of outside signals even if they were not far away, such as being in a valley. Particularly in Canada, communities with their own signals were fertile cable markets, as viewers wanted to receive American signals. Early systems carried only a maximum of seven channels, using 2, 4, 5 or 6, 7, 9, 11 and 13, as the equipment was unable to confine the signal discreetly within the assigned channel bandwidth. As equipment improved, all twelve channels could be utilized, except where a local VHF television station broadcast. Local broadcast channels were not usable for signals deemed to be priority, but technology allowed low-priority signals to be placed on such channels by synchronizing their blanking intervals. Similarly, a local VHF station could not be carried on its broadcast channel as the signals would arrive at the TV set slightly separated in time, causing "ghosting"