Tonight’s satellite TV… in 1995 

7 June 2017 tbs.pm/11298

Satellite Times magazine tells us what was on television on Wednesday 7 June 1995. Things worth noting include:

  • Satellite television is still a minority pursuit, mostly the preserve of techies who like this new type of DXing, mixed with people willing to pay for the football and those who like a bit of softcore porn late at night. More satellite hours are watched in public – pubs and clubs – than they are at home. But the expansion in the number of channels thanks to the recent launch of Astra 1D has started to make it attractive to the general population.
  • Sky Movies (an original Sky channel) and The Movie Channel (the only brand to survive from the merger with BSB) don’t have any big-hitters tonight. The only new movie on the roster is 1991’s Flirting, the sequel to The Year My Voice Broke, featuring the newly huge star Nicole Kidman fresh out of her breakout role in Days of Thunder. It’s up against 1993’s bomb House of Cards.
  • A third movie channel, Sky Movies Gold, had replaced the little-loved Comedy Channel in 1992. ‘Gold’ here has an interesting definition. As, for that matter, does ‘Movies’, given the first two hours of broadcasting are handed to stuff we’d expect on Sky One.
  • Speaking of Sky One, this is the point that their schedules start to get out of the terrible-rubbish-terribly-scheduled habit they’d had since the 1980s and instead both carefully schedule against BBC-1 and ITV and also pick up some of the best – or at least most interesting – of the recent US networks’ output. This was the type of stuff that the BBC and Channel 4 had being buying of late and horribly mistreating, by sticking it on BBC-2 or shoving on very late.
  • CBS’s Late Night with David Letterman is running on weeknights on Sky One, but as with all attempts to get the US late night talk shows on to UK television, it didn’t last. The main issue seems to be the cost of rushing-editing the previous night’s programme to remove the advertisement breaks, trim product placement and cut out any clips where the rights haven’t travelled very well.
  • UK Gold is still recognisably the Thames/BBC Enterprises joint venture it started out as, even with Dallas and its spin off Knots Landing getting an afternoon repeat, rather than the BBC+7days thing it morphed into in the 2000s.
  • The glory days of Bravo are here – especially from next month, as Bravo sealed a deal to get the rights to all ITC programming in May 1995. Sadly, this didn’t last: there’s a finite and aging audience for vintage television which may not stay around to watch the third or fourth repeat showing of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Satellite slots – especially analogue slots – cost a lot of money, and advertisers want young people who haven’t made their brand choices yet, not babyboomers who long ago decided between Bisto and Oxo.
  • The Discovery Channel’s addition to the Sky Multichannels system had been a major feather in Sky and Rupert Murdoch’s caps. It would help them immensely with the arrival of digital, too, as Discovery Communications were one of the first broadcasters to see a potential in subdividing audiences between many specialist versions of their main channel, allowing advertisers pin-point precision in who they target. Discovery’s suite of new digital channels was a very useful advertising tool for the new Sky Digital platform from 1998.
  • Sky Sports is the other survivor from BSB days, although unlike The Movie Channel it didn’t keep the original BSB name, The Sports Channel. Sky’s multi-million pound deal to snatch football away from a disorganised ITV – with the help of the BBC – a few years earlier had been the making of the platform. But this is June and the Premier League is resting, so the schedule looks a bit bare.
  • The dominance of the babyboomer audience at this point is pretty obvious over on The Family Channel, helped by having the best of TVS and MTM’s output on hand.
  • Travel Channel (as opposed to Sky Travel) is aimed at a cable audience, which is why it’s on Intelsat 601 all the way over at 27.5° West. Travel had been interested in an Astra position as part of the Sky Multichannels system, but had balked at Sky’s demand or offer (who knows) of a 50% share/investment in the channel. Sky Travel was Sky’s response to Travel not playing ball.
  • MTV and VH-1 are both music channels, not scripted-‘reality’ TV hell-holes.
  • Satellite Times carries a stern warning to correspondent who writes to ask if it’s possible to get D2-MAC movie and porn services in the UK, telling him he must decide if he feels comfortable with buying illegal, counterfeit cards. Then they print the listings for these channels, suggesting they themselves do.
  • The Adult Channel is regulated by the UK regulator of the time, the Independent Television Commission, so therefore the hysterically named and ludicrously described straight porn is all very softcore – the most you’re going to see is some bouncy female breasts, if that. TV Erotica, over on Eutelsat 2F3 at 16° East was uplinked from Sweden and covered by their media regulator, the Swedish Broadcasting Commission, which didn’t care about pornography. So the programmes were terrifyingly hardcore for 1995. The UK government moved to make it illegal to receive, distribute, watch, advertise or sell decoder cards for the channel in October 1995.
  • Conversely, the TV3 networks have no pornography, soft or otherwise, and a very family-friendly schedule, as the UK’s ITC regulated them, rather than Sweden’s SBC.

  • A fun thing from before the days of all-digital printing: what do you do if a channel changes name after your fixed colour templates have been prepared? If you know a channel is going to launch eventually, you can prepare the template with space available, as has been done for the Sci-Fi Channel. But TV Asia being replaced by Zee TV is much more difficult to deal with. The solution here is to overprint with the later-applied black ink used for the schedules, covering over the old logo, but sticking the new name around the edges reversed-out. Clever for the time, but a technique never required 20 years later.

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2 responses to this article

Victor Field 7 June 2017 at 5:55 pm

Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network are very different from their current incarnations – not only because CN hadn’t really gotten into making originals yet. (Disney Channel would’ve been in the listings if this had been from a few months later).

I liked looking at the foreign language channels, especially the German ones like ProSieben (which nowadays shares E4’s obession with “The Big Bang Theory”).

Arthur Nibble 8 June 2017 at 4:06 pm

Interesting choice of cover star for the magazine – Traci Lords, real name Nora Kuzma, who started out as an underage nude model and, erm, film star.

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