From black and white to colour, from vacuum tube to LCD. The evolution of television was in tandem with technological advancements in broadcasting. Broadcasting has changed drastically in the last 20 years. In the 90s, watching TV meant sitting on the couch while watching a sitcom on one of few channels available. Nowadays, broadcasting is not limited to television anymore. We can watch whatever is broadcasted by TV stations anywhere, anytime. So how did we get here?

Terrestrial TV


Remember how hard it was to adjust the antenna? (Photo source: The Telegraph)

Not to be mistaken as ET-TV, terrestrial TV is essentially your antenna TV. The signal is transmitted from an Earth-based transmitter to TV receiver with antenna. The first TV station was WRGB, New York, established in 1928. Although it didn’t have weekly programs for the first 8 months on air, it aired the first live drama on TV; The Queen’s Messenger. In another continent, BBC broadcasted five days a week by 1930. In 1931, United States experienced the first daily broadcasts, although it was only limited to several hours a day. The fast rise of the industry was after the World War II. By 1947, there were 40,000 TV sets in the US and 54,000 in the UK. Applications for TV station license soared and daily broadcasts became more common. Malaysia was introduced to terrestrial TV in 1963 and the broadcast stayed in monochrome until 1978. Terrestrial TV was the only mode of broadcasting until cable TV came.

Cable TV

And the pain of plugging in the wrong cable? (Photo source: Bloomberg)

Cable TV evolved from Community Antenna Television or CATV. CATV was constructed in areas with limited reception. From this large antenna, cables were run to individual homes to provide them access to terrestrial TV. With cable, live television became much easier. During the 80s, due to US’ new regulations, live local programs spread wildly throughout the country. Cable specialty channels became more common. By 80s their signals outnumbered the long-standing broadcast signals on cable. Some systems have more than 35 channels, a huge rise from maximum of 12 in terrestrial TV systems. The 80s marked the rapid growth of cable-only television movies and miniseries. As an example, HBO jumped from 7 shows in the 70s to 29 shows in the 80s. In Malaysia, cable TV was first introduced in 1995 by Mega TV, which closed down in 2001. Only 12 years later that the second cable TV service, ABNXcess, was launched.

Satellite TV


Also climbing to the roof to install satellite dish? (Photo source: Earth 911)

As the name suggests, satellite TV utilizes communication satellites as the broadcast transmitter. Intelsat I, the first commercial communication satellite, was launched in 1965. Despite the higher amount of channels compared to cable TV, satellite TV wasn’t popular back then. The first reason is because of its satellite dish size, which can be up to 4.9 meters in diameter. Another reason is because of its price. The first home satellite TV station was sold at $36,500 in 1979. In only five years, the price dropped to as low as $2,000 and 500,000 systems were sold in the US alone. With this growing number, subscription system was developed. One of the first satellite providers, HBO, began to encrypt their channels in 1986 and offer subscription at $12.95 per month. All channels followed HBO’s footstep and one by one started to scramble their channels. In Malaysia, the federal government granted an exclusive license as a sole pay TV provider to, as you can guess, Astro. Until 2022, it will be the only satellite TV provider in Malaysia.

In the last decade, especially, TV has been replaced by the internet. Broadcasting finally found its latest medium. The growth of streaming soared, in only one-tenth of the time that it took TV to go from transmitting signals via AM waves to satellite. There are some big players in the internet TV industry; but who’s who can be narrowed down into these pioneers.


85913954-youtube-tv-TECH-large_trans++gsaO8O78rhmZrDxTlQBjdEbgHFEZVI1Pljic_pW9c90Watch videos on the palm of your hand (Photo source: The Telegraph)

Of course, it all started from Youtube. It was launched in 2005 as a video-sharing platform. With “Broadcast Yourself” slogan, it received 8 million views a day by the end of the year. In just six months after that, 65,000 videos were uploaded every day. In the same year, 2006, Youtube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in Google stock. Since then Youtube has changed the course of online video. A study by Pew Research Centre reported the advancement of visual journalism assisted by Youtube’s soaring popularity. Not only that; we have become the “Youtube generations”, as Obama called it. With any type of videos just a click away, Youtube shifted our attention away from TV-only medias into growing amount of watchable information. Youtube is on its way to replace TVs. It is currently developing paid subscription service called Unplugged, which offer internet streaming of cable TV channels.

Connected TV


Because TV needs internet too (Photo source: Tom’s Guide)

Connected TV, also known as smart TV, is essentially a TV with integrated internet and Web 2.0 features. It dated back to a 1995 patent from France. Regardless, it experienced slow growth until 2012, when connected TV usage increased by 12%. The slow growth is mainly due to the high price of the TV. However, a cheaper alternative came along; a tabletop device that can connect your TV to the internet. Apple first launched its Apple TV in 2006. Two years later, the first Roku device was launched. With the growing number of hungry viewers, Google jumped into the industry in 2010. However, Google TV didn’t last. After only four years, Google decided to replace it completely with Android TV. Google learned from their previous failed attempt; alongside a smart TV platform, Google also launched a digital media player for an alternative. By 2014, it was reported that over 110 million adults in the US watch video from connected TVs!

Video on Demand Providers


Making everyday movie day since 2007 (Photo source: The Huffington Post)

Making binge-watching a more common hobby, video on demand significantly changed the way we watch the motion picture. It all started with Netflix in 2007, who ditched DVD rental service and moved to video streaming due to huge demand from its customers. Around the same time, Hulu began its development and was launched to the public in 2008. Netflix promotes binge-watching by releasing one season at once, unlike TV networks which make you wait for few weeks to watch just one episode. A survey by Netflix revealed that 61% of the subjects binge-watch regularly. In 2009, the term “Netflix and chill” was posted on Twitter and crawled its way to popularity until it became an internet meme in 2015.

These video on demand providers don’t just provide movies and TV series; they also make them. Netflix’s original programs have received 90 awards and 414 nominations. These include 14 wins from Primetime Emmy Awards, 10 Daytime Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and three People’s Choice Awards. Netflix became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy Award.

Broadcasting has moved from TV platform to your mobile phones. Watching movies or TV shows is no longer a hassle with the technological advancement. It is also no longer a privilege, but rather a pop culture. With growing market, connected TV would continue to try to replace the conventional TV systems. The only question is: are you ready to change?

Valerie is a 3rd year Food Science student who spends most of her time writing lab reports. If not, she’ll be binge-watching some TV series. She writes about TV shows and movies for Radio Monash Malaysia in her weekly section, Watching After Dark. You can drop your suggestions for the section here.

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