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Cable Today, Tomorrow & the Future of Media

Cable television has been with us for less than 70 years, but its impact on society has been so substantial, it has entirely changed the way we are entertained; how we get our news, how we communicate with each other, and how we view the world around us.

The future of media will have just as dramatic an effect.

The Cable Center's new Cable Today & Tomorrow project brings the media industry's story and impact to life through audio and video, and photos showcasing the industry's major achievements, as well as its influence on society and culture.

We are covering cable’s history and media’s future through exhibits, presenting live events, and crafting educational content and video which underscores how cable connects and affects us. The project is considered to best illustrate the industry's leading role in the development and deployment of new technologies. It also articulates the significant impact media in general and cable specifically has had on our society’s culture.

We will also showcase the real "stories behind the numbers" that have made the industry so successful. Panel sessions, presentations, and other events on a number of topics will be videotaped. These will be included in an ongoing catalogue of stories that will help measure the media's growing influence on technology and society.

From the first moment coaxial cable was attached to telephone poles bringing TV signals to rural and remote areas, the cable industry has created tectonic shifts in entertainment, communications, news and commerce. Can anyone imagine what the world would be like without access to television or Internet? Today, there are hundreds of channels for just about everyone's viewing desire. Without broadband, there would be no Google, Amazon or eBay and social media would not be the powerhouse it is today. Do you use WiFi hotspots to access email or the Internet? Chances are that hotspot has been created by the local cable system.

Indeed, many of the technologies we take for granted to communicate with one another were either developed or enhanced by the cable industry. For instance, the first cable modem was installed in 1994 and almost overnight the demand was overwhelming. That demand remains exponentially high today. Consumers are accessing the Internet at rates no one conceived of 20 years ago. Today's speeds and capacity will seem inadequate in comparison to what will be offered by cable companies in a few short years. The Cable Center's Cable Today & Tomorrow exhibit will focus on how this and other cable-centric technologies have helped shape society and the world around us.

Positive Change

Clearly, one of the most influential inventions of the 20th century was television. However, millions of people could not watch it because over-the-air signals were unable to reach them. It took a few enterprising businessmen and women to bring TV signals to their friends and neighbors. In the early days, there was no template for this business. Cable pioneers used their know-how, grit and imagination to create an entire new technology and industry. Today, cable television is a constant presence in people's lives. In fact, the average U.S. viewer watches about five hours of TV a day, according to data from Nielsen.

As part of our Cable Today & Tomorrow project, we will show how the industry has created some of society's most influential and transformative content in modern history—and what media in the future will look like.

For example, MTV (Music Television) forever changed the way teens and young adults viewed and listened to music when it began delivering a steady stream of music videos in 1981. However, the network is also credited with energizing millions of young adults to become civically engaged when it created Rock the Vote in 1992. Rock the Vote quickly became the intersection that brought together young people, politics and pop culture. The program has run the largest voter registration drives on record during the past four presidential elections.

At the same time, Americans have had the rare opportunity to watch their government at work thanks to C-SPAN founder, Brian Lamb, who began televising U.S. House of Representative and Senate proceedings in 1979. He convinced the cable industry to fund the project every year. No other content delivery mechanism provides that kind of access to our governmental process and is paid for by the private sector.

If C-SPAN changed the way we view our government and MTV changed the way music is delivered and absorbed, CNN (Cable News Network) revolutionized the way we watch and relate to the news. Launched in 1980, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage. The network was well respected having bureaus all over the globe, but it was in 1991 during the first Gulf War when CNN's newsgathering prowess came into full view.

The network was the only news outlet with the ability to communicate from inside Iraq during the initial hours of the American bombing campaign. Live reports from the Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad by reporters Bernard Shaw, John Holliman, and Peter Arnett riveted viewers − they weren't just getting a re-cap of the news, but were watching it live.

How Media Will Influence Tomorrow

The cable industry's history and legacy of technological advancements and cutting-edge developments continues to live on through new products and services, forever changing how people use media. Cable Today & Tomorrow is a dynamic program that will be constantly changing as the industry morphs and transforms itself. We will frequently add content as we continue adding to cable’s unwritten history. Stay tuned...


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