Multichannel television in the United States

Multichannel television in the United States has been available since at least 1948. The United States is served by multichannel television through cable television systems, direct-broadcast satellite providers, and various other wireline video providers; among the largest television providers in the U.S. are DirecTV, Altice USA, Charter Communications (through its Spectrum division, which also includes the former Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks systems), Comcast (through its Xfinity division), Dish Network, and Verizon Communications (through its FiOS division).[1] The Telecommunications Act of 1996 defines a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) as "a person such as, but not limited to, a cable operator, a multichannel multipoint distribution service, a direct broadcast satellite service, or a television receive-only satellite program distributor, who makes available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple channels of video programming", where a channel is defined as a "signaling path provided by a cable television system."[2]

Initially serving as a means to provide local television stations to customers who could not receive them over-the-air, the deployments of communications satellites made it financially feasible for broadcasters to distribute channels of national interest to cable, and later satellite television providers, such as superstations and premium television services. By 1980, 15 million of the approximately 80 million television-owning households in the U.S. subscribed to a multichannel television service. In the 1990s, digital multichannel services, such as direct-broadcast satellite and digital cable, experienced a surge in popularity due to their increased channel capacity.

As of 2017, approximately 79% of U.S. TV households have a television subscription; the market share of multichannel television began to erode in the mid-2010s due to the increasing popularity of subscription-based online video services, the increasing costs of these services due to the carriage fees demanded by major channels, as well as consumers intentionally dropping traditional television service in favor of alternatives such as subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services, and linear television services that are delivered entirely over the public internet, or never subscribing to such a service at all.[3][4]


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