Hildebrandt: Philip Hochberg’s visionary 1971 article about the future of sports on cable TV

From SABR member Chuck Hildebrandt at SABRMedia.org on April 21, 2015:

Committee member Philip Hochberg, public announcer extraordinaire who worked the games for the Washington Senators from 1962 until they high-tailed out of town for Texas after the 1970 season, was also a prescient journalist in his spare time.  “Prescient”, I say, because as far back as 1971, he saw the cables sports revolution on the horizon, and penned this piece below for the Sporting News’ July 3 edition that year.

This was eight years before the Entertainment Sports and Programming Network signed on, and several more years than that before regional sports networks became the norm for the broadcasting of professional sports. You can tell it was a long time ago because Hochberg notes that cable is booming because there are already “nearly five million persons [being] served by [cable].”  At the time, that made only about 2.5% of all Americans.  Today, about 89% of all American households are served by either cable or other “alternate delivery systems” such as satellite.

Much of the article delves into how the FCC was attempting to wrestle with how to regulate the infant cable TV industry from poaching activity, in order to protect over-the-air broadcasters of marquee events, such as the World Series, that had traditionally run free over the air.  We also learn how the desire of small-city cable TV operators to run professional sports programming, especially major league baseball, influenced them to choose to air distant big city TV stations over local stations that presumably aired the same national networks.

One of the best fun facts I learned from reading this article is that in 1971, TelePrompTer Corporation, having divested itself of its actual teleprompter business, was the cable TV operator in the country.  TelePrompTer later sold out to Westinghouse broadcasting, and their cable holdings was renamed Group W Cable.

Read the full article here: http://sabrmedia.org/2015/04/21/visionary-1971-article-about-the-future-of-sports-on-cable-tv/

Originally published: April 21, 2015. Last Updated: April 21, 2015.