Cable Television, 1989

I was rummaging through some old boxes recently and found a cable channel guide from 1989 amongst the other treasures that had been packed away and unseen since the first Bush administration. 

This particular card was United Cable Television’s lineup in the city I grew up in–Tyler, Texas, a somewhat-backwards place in East Texas.

First, a bit of history:

United Cable Television’s roots go back to 1953. Gene Schneider, his brother, Richard, and Bill Daniels built a community antenna[1]incidentally, Community Antenna is where we get the abbreviation for cable TV as CATV system (what we’d later call a cable system) in Casper, Wyoming. It was the first cable system in the country to use microwave to import broadcast signals from a distant city (in this case Denver). Schneider bought out Daniels in 1960 as well as other original investors and continued to expand the company. In 1966, GenCoE was formed with Ben Conroy, Jack Crosby, Glenn Flinn and others. In the late 60’s, GenCoE merged with Livingston Oil Company  and in 1970, the cable company became independent through an IPO and was named LVO Cable; in 1974 it became United Cable Television Corporation (United). In 1979, it merged with United Artists, which later merged with TCI, which branded some of their markets as the New United Cable Television, including the Tyler, Texas, market.

I thought I’d make a quick rundown of what channels were available to watch and if they’re still around today.

2. Local Time, Weather, Message

My memories of channel 2 was that it was a multi-lined feed of character-generator created text showing the time, temperature and other information, each line being a different color, kind of, but not completely like this retro image I found online from Winnipeg:

3. CNN is still going strong

4. KDFW is now a Fox affiliate

5. KXAS is still NBC

6. Cable Value Network was bought-out by QVC in July 1989, so either this card hadn’t been updated or, more-likely, it’s operations hadn’t yet been merged into its new owner’s.

7. KLTV is still the ABC affiliate in East Texas

8. WFAA is still the Dallas-area ABC affiliate

9. WGN’s superstation feed was later converted into a conventional basic cable channel called WGN America, which eventually became NewsNation. However, when it was WGN, we got to watch the local Chicago news, Cubs games and the Illinois lottery drawings!

10. KETK is still the local NBC affiliate.

11. KTVT became the DFW CBS affiliate when KDFW switched to Fox

14. Arts & Entertainment now just goes by A&E and focuses much more on the Entertainment part rather than the Arts, though in the early days, it broadcast classical music performances, plays and other high-brow entertainment.

16. ‘Memba this?

17. TBS was a superstation, carrying local Atlanta-area content, but has now split into a conventional basic cable channel along with a separate Atlanta-only feed.

18. *yawn*

19. FNN was purchased by NBC in 1991, and operations were integrated with rival cable financial news network, CNBC, on May 21, 1991.

21. VISN was the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network, a religious broadcaster. It was eventually bought out and became the Hallmark Channel in 2001.

23. CBN Family Channel started as the Christian Broadcasting Network Satellite Service, which became The Family Channel, then Fox Family, then ABC Family and finally Freeform.

24. Fun fact: MTV used to show music videos.

25. The Nashville Network was originally country music focused. In an attempt to broaden its appeal, it de-emphasized country music and renamed itself to The National Network, followed by a rebranding to Spike TV and finally the Paramount Network in 2018.

26. VH1 was the more-adult companion to MTV, but like that channel, eventually drifted into showing more reality TV than anything else.

29. When I was a kid, KXTX was an independent station that mostly showed old movies, Rockford Files reruns and westerns. Today, it’s the DFW area Telemundo affiliate.

31. KLMG has since changed their callsign to KFXK and is now a Fox affiliate.

35. Movietime changed to E!: Entertainment Television (now just E!) in 1990.

42. American Movie Classics was originally a pay channel that focused on showing classic films. It’s since drifted to original programming (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.), became basic cable and changed its name to just AMC.

43. HSE dropped out of premium cable as Fox Sports Southwest and eventually became Bally Sports Southwest

49. The Playboy Channel is still sort-of around as Playboy TV, but is no longer operated by Playboy; instead, it’s operated by MindGeek, operators of such fine websites as Pornhub, RedTube and Brazzers.



1 incidentally, Community Antenna is where we get the abbreviation for cable TV as CATV
Featured Image By Aleks Dorohovich

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