8 Very Short-Lived TV Channels
While some cable networks like HBO are approaching their 40th birthdays, other channels came and went so fast that you may have never accidentally discovered them by pressing the wrong button on your remote. Here are eight channels that until now had been mostly forgotten.
1. CABLE MUSIC CHANNEL (OCTOBER 26, 1984 - NOVEMBER 30, 1984)
As a way to get into the emerging 24-hour music television business, on October 26, 1984, Ted Turner launched the Cable Music Channel, which was marketed as a more wholesome alternative to the "satanic" MTV. MTV countered with the announcement of an upcoming sister network that would play the same innocent, adult contemporary, MOR music that filled up the Cable Music Channel's playlist: Video Hits 1. Turner also had trouble getting the rights to popular videos because MTV allegedly put pressure on musicians to adhere to an exclusivity agreement. When cable operators weren't putting CMC on their systems, Turner gave up and sold his brand-new channel to MTV for $1 million, just 34 days after it launched. Cable Music Channel signed off permanently the very next day.
2. SATELLITE NEWS CHANNEL (JUNE 21, 1982 - OCTOBER 27, 1983)
It was notable that Ted Turner, known in the early '80s as "The Mouth of the South," had failed in attempting to create a new network to compete with—and copy—an existing network that had a specific format all to itself, because he had been on the other side of things just two years earlier. After CNN surprised most media experts by being a 24 hour news channel that people actually watched, ABC and Westinghouse combined to create the Satellite News Channel, an around-the-clock news network of their own. SNC's hook was that the news would be updated every 18 minutes. Once he had discovered ABC and Westinghouse's intentions, Turner quickly launched CNN2 on January 1, 1982, more than five months ahead of SNC's debut. CNN2 updated its news every 30 minutes; it would eventually be renamed CNN Headline News. Satellite News Channel couldn't manage to get on enough cable systems, whose operators figured one to two news networks were enough to begin with, and folded after 15 months.
3. THE OVERMYER NETWORK (MAY 1, 1967 - JUNE 1, 1967)
Warehousing mogul Daniel H. Overmyer got his start in television in 1966 when he created WDHO-TV Channel 24 in Toledo, Ohio (the call letters are Overmyer's initials). After acquiring five other UHF stations, Overmyer tried to use those and other willing potential affiliates to create a fourth major television network just one year later to rival CBS, NBC, and ABC, attempting to succeed where the DuMont Network had failed after ten years of broadcasting in 1956. Even though he employed former ABC president Oliver Treyz, and the broadcasting rights to the new Continental Football League (defunct as of 1969), he quickly got into money troubles before the intended launch. Eleven businessmen purchased a majority share of the network, renamed it the United Network, then watched its single program, a two-hour late night show called The Las Vegas Show, fail to make it a profitable investment. The prospect of a $400,000 AT&T bill for the June lease on telephone lines led to the cancellation of both the show and Overmyer's dream.
4. HAWKVISION (OCTOBER 1992- APRIL 1993)
Under the belief that it "wasn't fair to season ticket holders," and because he felt that it was ultimately costing him money, Chicago Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz decided after the 1992-93 NHL season that his franchise would be the only one out of the four major American sports to purposely not have its home games televised. This decision came after the headstrong, unpopular owner canceled all traditional broadcasting offers and offered Hawkvision, a pay cable service. Hawkvision existed for the sole purpose of televising Blackhawks games played at Chicago Stadium to fans' living rooms for a fee. When that proved to not be profitable after one season, Wirtz refused all television offers for the remainder of his life. After his passing in 2007, the home blackouts were finally lifted.
5. THE PUPPY CHANNEL (1997- 2001)
Created by a retired advertising executive who was tired of watching the O.J. Simpson trial and the daytime TV alternatives, The Puppy Channel was a 24/7 network that showed nothing but puppies doing puppy things, accompanied by light instrumental music. It lasted four years and was on just as many cable systems, ending in 2001 when the entirety of the internet was beginning to provide all of the cute animal content that would ever be necessary. The Puppy Channel returned on said internet in 2008. DogTV launched in 2012 as a 24/7 channel with sound, colors, and camera angles attempting to appeal to dogs themselves.
6. THE COMEDY CHANNEL (NOVEMBER 15, 1989 - APRIL 1, 1991) / HA! (APRIL 1, 1990 - APRIL 1, 1991)
Both Time Warner/HBO and Viacom wanted to bring more laughter into the world, but their noble deeds were thwarted by the fact that they both attempted to do it at roughly the same time. HBO's The Comedy Channel launched first, with shows like Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Higgins Boys and Gruber and a Jon Stewart-hosted Short Attention Span Theater that combined bits and sketches with clips from old movies, TV shows, and stand-up. Viacom's Ha! premiered on April Fools Day 1990 with a couple of original sketch shows (The Unnaturals, Random Acts of Variety) and a game show (Clash!), but mostly relied on reruns of SNL, sitcom classics like I Love Lucy and The Phil Silvers Show, and sitcoms meant to be forgotten (All is Forgiven? Occasional Wife?). Because some cable providers didn't want to choose sides between the two powerful companies, in some cases they ended up not adding either channel to their lineup. As a result, viewership numbers were disappointing to both media conglomerates. Even though there was a $2.4 billion antitrust suit ongoing between the two, Time Warner and Viacom merged their two comedy channels together to form Comedy TV. By Comedy TV's April Fools Day 1991 relaunch it was rechristened as CTV: The Comedy Channel. Two months later on June 1st, it was Comedy Central.
7. CBS CABLE (OCTOBER 12, 1981 - DECEMBER 17, 1982)
CBS founder William Paley oversaw the creation of CBS Cable, the network's first foray into the then relatively new and unfamiliar land of cable. A reported $10 million was initially spent on the channel, which produced several of its own highbrow, cultured programs that focused on classical music, drama, films, jazz, and interviews with artists of those walks of life, as well as a quiz show with kid contestants hosted by Norman Lear. CBS Cable continued to create 60 percent of its own daily schedule every day until its last, when it presented a new production of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. Paley was forced to shut the channel down because Bravo and ABC/Hearst's Alpha Repertory Television Service (ARTS), which later became A&E, took a sizable chunk of CBS Cable's desired demographic.
8. AMERICA'S TALKING (JULY 4, 1994 - JULY 15, 1996)
From the mind of CNBC president and chief executive Roger Ailes came the 24 hour talk show channel America's Talking. Ailes himself hosted a celebrity interview show on the channel called Straight Forward. A psychologist and behavioral therapist co-hosted the program Am I Nuts?. Break a Leg was hosted by contest winner Bill McCuddy. The morning show, America's Talking A.M., was co-anchored by Steve Doocy, one of a few America's Talking personalities that followed Roger Ailes when he left the company in 1996 to help Rupert Murdoch start the Fox News Channel. Ailes' departure, low ratings, and a partnership with Microsoft led to America's Talking taking a permanent vow of silence, paving the way for MSNBC. The lone America's Talking show to survive the change was Politics with Chris Matthews. Also surviving, in the form of a YouTube supercut, is Tony "The Prodigy Guy" Morelli, the man who was tasked to read selected posts from the Prodigy America's Talking bulletin board out loud during A.M. and Am I Nuts?: