Monday, September 20, 2021

Television Networks: The Satellite News Channel

The original success of the groundbreaking news channel CNN led to several attempts to launch similar channels. The first one to make it to air was SNC: The Satellite News Channel, which was a joint venture between ABC and Group W Satellite Television. Federal regulations at the time restricted the big three networks from owning cable channels outright. (This was to prevent the over the air networks from dominating or suppressing the cable industry.) ABC got around this restriction by setting up external companies that it jointly owned with outside entities. This was how ESPN was originally structured and was the model for its venture into 24 hour news.

The channel premiered in 1982, offering an alternative to CNN and an attractive incentive for cable systems to carry it. Unlike other channels at the time, SNC would pay cable systems to carry it, instead of getting paid by them, as was standard industry practice. Despite this incentive, SNC had a hard time getting picked up by cable systems. Technological limitations made cable bandwidth extremely scarce and cable systems had limits on how many channels they could carry. Despite the financial incentive to carry SNC, local cable systems weren’t in the habit of carrying multiple channels of the same genre, seeing this as a waste of resources. Adding SNC meant dropping CNN and cable viewers had already grown fond of CNN. Fearing a revolt if CNN were replaced, most cable systems rejected SNC. The network would close just 16 months after its launch.