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When pay-per-view TV got its start

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Time to open up the Marketplace vault and take a peek at this week in the history of business. And today we find . . . Hmmm . . . looks like an old cable TV box and a look at a television revolution.


STACEY VANEK-SMITH: This week back in 1951, television first dipped its toe into the world of pay-per-view. The Zenith Radio Corporation selected 300 families and sent several movies over the airways with scrambled signals.

Participants could call in to decode the films. The selection included "Homecoming," with Clark Gable and Lana Turner, and "Welcome Stranger," starring Bing Crosby.

Each movie cost a dollar. During the four-week trial, the families ordered 2,600 films But pay-per-view didn't really take off until the 60s, when cable started to become more popular.

Cable companies still offer pay-per-view movies. But these days, the service is usually the turf of major sports events.

I'm Stacey Vanek-Smith.

About the author

Stacey Vanek Smith is a senior reporter for Marketplace, where she covers banking, consumer finance, housing and advertising.
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