When Movies Were On Network Television

By Ken Foote, CBSDFW.COM

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I was looking back at the fall 1972 prime time lineups for CBS, ABC, and NBC. Now I have a pretty good memory about things as my wife calls me a compendium of information (in most cases, useless information). But I saw something that you don’t see too much today.

When the networks launched their fall schedule, each and every week of the night had a prime time movie. CBS aired a prime movie on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. NBC aired movies on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. ABC, who was beginning to emerge as a competitive network in the 1970’s, aired one on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays. Viewers had nine movies to choose from each week. Some were theatricals, other were what we call MOW, or Movie Of The Week. Cable back then was merely a utility for providing service to outlying areas of the DFW area for viewers who resided a little too far for picking TV signals up over the air. Cable brought over the air signals to subscribers crystal clear. And many of the movies were ones where families could watch together.

In New York, a cable owner name Charles Dolen was dabbling with an idea to bring an all movie channel to his subscribers at Cablevision in conjunction with Time Life. Originally called The Green Channel, it was launched on November 8, 1972 and renamed Home Box Office. Today we just call it HBO. I first saw HBO in 1976 as a graduate student at the University of Texas At Austin and I thought it was so cool to have a movie channel without commercials. Today, HBO is a division of Time Warner.

With the growth of pay cable services such as HBO, Showtime/Movie Channel (which is a division of CBS), Encore, AMC, and TCM to name a few, these services began to acquire movies at a very fast pace. In addition, the popularity of many MOW movies began to wane as time moved on. You can still the Jesse Stone movies starring Tom Sellack on CBS. And during Christmas and Easter, you can count on seeing It’s A Wonderful Life on NBC and The Ten Commandment on ABC (still can’t get used to Edward G. Robinson in that movie!). But the networks began to shift their content focus from movies to more scripted series, such as NCIS and The Big Bang Theory, and reduced their reliance on movies as a stable of their lineups. And as technology has changed with how movies are available to be viewed, so has that content migrated to these services and technologies.

See you next time.

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