Pay Per View Broadcasting

PPV television broadcasting, or pay per view, is a service which permits television viewers to purchase rights to see programming that is  scrambled...


PPV television broadcasting, or pay per view, is a service which permits television viewers to purchase rights to see programming that is  scrambled  for those who don’t pay.  One example of this is when boxing matches are shown on a pay per view basis.  Hollywood movies broadcast on a channel like HBO is another good example.  Normally the service is used because the audience is specialized enough that paying for regular airtime is not cost effective, or to allow viewers to view a broadcast without commercial interruptions.  The program is not necessarily live, but it is broadcast to everyone at the same time, unlike with  on-demand  programming, which allows the viewer to see the programming at any time.  The purchasing of the service is done by using an on-screen menu, or by calling an automated phone system, or by calling a customer service representative.   Paying for the service allows for the broadcast signal to be descrambled.

The first pay per view system tested in the U.S. was the the Phonevision system by Zenith.  Using telephone lines for unscrambling the signal and ordering the system, it was developed in 1949.  Skiatron’s Subscriber-Vision system was tested the next year. When a station was off air, shows would be broadcast and this system used punch cards by IBM to unscramble the signal.  But the FCC refused to give either of these systems the permits required.

Two of the earliest systems that went past the testing phase were TheaterVisioN and the Optical Systems Channel 100, but these were not able to continue when the flat-rate payment schemes offered by HBO and others became popular, and satellite technology began to be used by cable.  When the basketball team the Portland Trail Blazers tried pay per view in the late 1970’s it was the first commercially successful use of it.  In the early 1980s Viacom and Sports View had success with pay per view, and in 1985 the first cable channels specializing in pay per view began operating.

The phrase  pay per view  didn’t come into widespread use until the 1990s, when Showtime and other companies began using the words to describe their programs that were shown employing this system.   Since then, in the United States the  primary change that has happened with PPV is that boxing matches are starting to dominate the programming offered, while other kinds of events now are mostly shown as part of a standard flat rate cable package.

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