Channel Drift: What Happened to all Those Cable Channels?

In the early 1980s, the rise of cable TV was a game changer. There was an explosion of television content, some of it aiming to fill a niche and grab an underserved audience. But 40 years later, there are plenty of people who don't know that TLC was once The Learning Channel. More than one person has referred to it as an acronym for Terrible Life Choices. HBO was for movies, MTV was for music, and CNN was for news. But MTV doesn't play music anymore, and The History Channel doesn't have much history. I recall when The Lifetime Channel showed surgery videos, but that didn't last long. It turned out that serving an underserved niche audience wasn't nearly as profitable as giving the most people what they want to see for the least production cost. "Channel drift" is the phenomena of channels changing what they show until their original mission is completely forgotten.

The rise of reality TV allowed channels to produce a lot of popular content for relatively little money. Captain Midnight looks at the state of TV and draws us a timeline of how reality TV took over cable.

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