VEU

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Video Entertainment Unlimited
(VEU)
VEUlogo.png
LaunchedMay 1, 1980 (1980-05-01)
ClosedSeptember 30, 1984 (1984-09-30)
Owned byGolden West Broadcasters
Picture format480i (SDTV)
SloganAmerica's Premiere Home Entertainment Network
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Broadcast areaNationwide
(available in select areas)
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California

Video Entertainment Unlimited (VEU) (also referred to as VEU Subscription TV) is a defunct American subscription television service that was owned by Golden West Broadcasters. Operating over the signals of fledgling independent stations (and initially on two microwave systems) in select markets throughout the United States, VEU was similar in model and format to other subscription services that were available to prospective subscribers by way of an encrypted UHF broadcast signal as either a standalone service to those that did not have access to cable television-originated premium services, or as an additional viewing alternative thereto. VEU aired a broad mix of feature films including mainstream Hollywood blockbusters as well as sports events and specials.

Overview[edit]

VEU, like its competitors (ONTV, SelecTV, SuperTV and Spectrum) served as the only means available to watch recent theatrical feature films, sporting events and music specials presented unedited and without commercial interruption.

The first VEU services were microwave systems in Omaha and Memphis,[1] which launched on May 1, 1980 under the name "Golden West Entertainment Network" before Golden West began using the VEU name on June 15, 1980.

The service originated in the Oklahoma City market on November 3, 1980 over the signal of KAUT (channel 43), an upstart independent station which was founded by Golden West and initially maintained a daytime-only news format during time periods not allocated to VEU programming.[2] Except in Omaha and Memphis, VEU was transmitted in the form of a scrambled signal over a local UHF television station, requiring a Zenith-manufactured decoder box (which cost $49.95 and $34.99, respectively, for installation and deposit fees, in addition to a monthly subscription fee between $19.95 and $22.50 depending on the market) to unencrypt the signal in order for VEU's programming to be receiveable to subscribers. To prevent those who did not have a subscription from pirating the VEU signal, the decoders were designed to be controlled from the studio facility of the participating station, allowing illegally unscrambled decoders to be remotely encrypted.[2] In addition to Oklahoma City, VEU was also available on KNBN-TV (channel 33, now CW affiliate KDAF) in the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex), which began carrying the service on November 1, 1980,[3]. Meanwhile, the Omaha and Memphis microwave systems, the only ones that used the VEU name, were sold and became LimeLight, a service owned by Entertainment Systems, Inc., which collapsed in February 1982.[4]

By 1983, cable television had begun a rapid expansion into areas not previously wired for service. (VEU's pilot market of Oklahoma City was among the first VEU markets to see this occur, with Cox Cable wiring various sections of Oklahoma City proper with pay television service between 1980 and 1981, and TVQ Movie Systems Inc. – a Multichannel Multipoint Distribution Service that transmitted various cable channels via an over-the-air signal from atop the Liberty Bank Tower in the city's downtown district – inaugurating service in April 1980, which led to KAUT becoming the first VEU station to drop the service's programming on October 27, 1982.[5][6][7]) Home videocassettes and discs obtained near-ubiquity within the home entertainment market by that time as well, with rentals significantly increasing in popularity throughout the early 1980s. This resulted in an increased number of home entertainment choices available, and by 1984, fewer people cared to pay $22.50 per month to subscribe to a single-channel broadcast service that ran six hours a night. Moreover, established cable-originated pay television services such as HBO and Showtime were now heavily acquiring packages of films from the major studios through exclusive licensing agreements, making them off-limits to services like VEU. The service ceased operations on September 30, 1984, when the station that replaced KNBN-TV as VEU's Dallas–Fort Worth affiliate the year prior, KTWS-TV (channel 27, now a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station), dropped the service in favor of adopting a general entertainment format with a music video focus.

Programming[edit]

Unlike other over-the-air subscription television services, VEU maintained a part-time schedule throughout its entire existence; it broadcast Monday through Fridays from 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. The service's schedule of feature films was structured so that no affiliate could "run a movie to death," limiting repeat airings of any individual title to only four or five times in a given month.[2] For an additional monthly fee, VEU also offered Night VEU, an adult-oriented late night programming block that aired nightly from 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. local time (outside of FCC-designated safe harbor hours), featuring softcore versions of pornographic films. Customers that did not pay to receive the optional block saw the corresponding VEU affiliate's signal re-encrypted shortly after the Night VEU title sequence concluded. (A special lockout device to restrict the ability for children to view R-rated and pornographic movies could be purchased for a one-time-only charge of $15.)

The service also carried sporting events – which included games involving professional sports teams and select championship boxing matches – as well as entertainment specials (including concerts and stand-up comedy specials) and children's programs. During breaks between presentations, in addition to promos (which, for film promotions, consisted of the original theatrical trailers), the service also carried short films and music videos to pad time before the start of the next program. VEU subscribers also received a monthly or weekly catalog-size program guide, featuring a schedule of films that were scheduled to air on the service.

Affiliates[edit]

City of license/market Station Years of
affiliation
Current status
DallasFort Worth, Texas KNBN-TV 33 1980–1983 Now KDAF-TV, operating as a CW affiliate and owned by Tribune Broadcasting
KTWS-TV 27 1983–1984 Now KDFI, operating as a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station and owned by Fox Television Stations
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma KAUT 43 1980–1982 Now operating as an independent station and owned by Tribune Broadcasting

Background[edit]

Oklahoma City[edit]

The first over-the-air VEU service launched in Oklahoma City on October 15, 1980, transmitting over the signal of KAUT (channel 43), which was the only VEU-affiliated station owned by network parent Golden West Broadcasters. (At the time, Golden West also owned KTLA [now a CW affiliate] in Los Angeles, then an established entertainment-based independent station that offered a mix of sporting events, prime time and overnight feature films, a local prime time newscast and some syndicated programs during the nighttime hours; because of its strong standing in the market, Golden West opted not to have KTLA serve as a VEU charter outlet nor did it seek affiliations for the service on other Los Angeles-area independents that did not already have a subscription television offering.) Initially, KAUT – then operating as an independent station – offered only VEU programming each weekday from 7:00 p.m. until its 2:00 a.m. sign-off and weekends from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.; this was supplemented beginning three weeks later on November 3, by an all-local news programming format each weekday from the station's sign-on at 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., and a format of low-cost syndicated and barter programs (consisting of cartoons, sitcoms and drama series, westerns and classic movies) from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. that lasted until the news format was discontinued in September 1981, when it filled those time slots with additional entertainment programs. (After KAUT shifted its news block by two hours in March 1981, the station consequently held over the transition to VEU programming until 7:00 p.m.)[2][8][9][10][11][12]

The service launched as multichannel television service arrived in the Oklahoma City area, with the launches of several cable providers. Cox Cable and Pan Oklahoma Communications were in the process of wiring the Oklahoma City core and the bordering unincorporated suburb of Forest Park (with Pan Oklahoma providing service to areas of northeastern Oklahoma City to the east of Western Avenue, and Cox – which held a majority stake in Pan Oklahoma – operating west of Western Avenue).[13][14] Multimedia Cablevision also began providing service to select suburbs and adjacent areas of Oklahoma City in 1972 (eventually including among others, Bethany, Edmond, Guthrie, Del City, Choctaw, Harrah, Moore, Nichols Hills, Norman and Yukon) and was also in the process of expanding its lineup of cable-originated channel offerings as were American Cablevision in Midwest City (later absorbed into Multimedia's Oklahoma operations) and the Oklahoma City-based MMDS service TVQ/Movie Systems, Inc.

In addition to feature films and entertainment specials, KAUT's VEU service also carried college football games featuring participant schools in the Big Eight Conference (particularly games involving the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys) as well as Dallas Mavericks game telecasts during the NBA season. The KAUT service utilized local radio station KKLR (97.9 FM, now WWLS-FM on 98.1) to simulcast the multichannel audio feed as an FM radio signal to transmit music specials in stereo. Cox/Pan Oklahoma and Multimedia's cable operations – which offered 25-channel services providing a variety of programming from various local and cable-originated channels, including premium channels such as HBO, Showtime and, in Cox's Oklahoma City service area, Spotlight – grounded interest in VEU to a halt. Oklahoma City became the first market where VEU discontinued service on October 17, 1982, when channel 43 replaced VEU programming with classic television series and select first-run programs from 7:00 p.m. until its new 11:00 p.m. sign-off on weekdays and on weekend afternoons and evenings.[15]

Dallas–Fort Worth[edit]

VEU began airing on independent station KNBN-TV (channel 33, now CW affiliate KDAF-TV) upon that station's sign-on on September 29, 1980; in an irony, Nolanda Hill and Sheldon Turner (owners of KNBN founding parent Hill Broadcasting) successfully lobbied the Dallas City Council to charter a cable television franchise in the city. Channel 33 – which initially offered business news programming until 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and a limited amount of entertainment programs from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on weekends – offered VEU programming each weekday from 7:00 p.m. until its 2:00 a.m. sign-off and weekends from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. In addition to feature films and entertainment specials, KNBN's VEU service also carried college football games featuring participant schools in the Big Eight and Southwest Conferences as well as Dallas Mavericks game telecasts during the NBA season.

In September 1982, Golden West STV of Dallas bought the Preview service in Dallas.[16] After a 90-day simulcast period, VEU moved entirely in December to the former Preview station, KTWS-TV (channel 27, now a MyNetworkTV owned-and-operated station), leaving KNBN-TV–by then, a part-time affiliate of the Spanish International Network (the forerunner to the present-day Univision). VEU discontinued its Dallas–Fort Worth area operations on September 30, 1984, as a result of its popularity declining significantly because of cable television becoming more widely available in the area (with Warner Cable serving most of the Dallas area).

Other markets[edit]

VEU service for other markets was periodically mentioned but never came to fruition.

A VEU company, Golden West STV of Providence, was to have set up a subscription television operation on the then-new WSTG channel 64 in Providence, Rhode Island,[17] but that service never was offered. Additionally, Chicago was listed on a handful of occasions as a planned expansion target.[18]

One potential VEU station ended up as one of the most visible signs of the service, even though it never actually hosted a VEU operation, because of its call letters. Even though a "Golden West STV of Atlanta" company was incorporated, Atlanta's WVEU (channel 69, now CW owned-and-operated station WUPA), an upstart UHF television station founded by locally based BCG Communications, instead signed on its subscription television service on November 23, 1981 as "Superstar TV".[19] Superstar, which was nearly the only content broadcast over WVEU as the station worked out interference issues with two-way radio transmissions,[20] ceased operations the morning of July 23, 1983, with its operator, Subscription Television of Greater Atlanta, in bankruptcy proceedings.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Over-the-Air TV Broadcasts Wednesday". The Daily Oklahoman. October 12, 1980. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d "New Oklahoma City outlet to program news and STV" (PDF). Broadcasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. November 3, 1980. p. 43. Retrieved August 29, 2018 – via American Radio History.
    "New Oklahoma City outlet to program news and STV" (PDF). Broadcasting. Broadcasting Publications, Inc. November 3, 1980. p. 46. Retrieved August 29, 2018 – via American Radio History.
  3. ^ Steve Kenny (June 1, 1981). "Entertainment Pay TV Guide". D Magazine. D Magazine Partners. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  4. ^ Moore, Thomas J. (October 31, 1982). "Pinellas pay TV firm's short life involves SEC, California investors and bank loan of $1-million". Tampa Bay Times. p. 14-D. Retrieved July 6, 2019. (Continued)
  5. ^ Nolan Clay (September 15, 1985). "Parent Company Tightens Control Over City Cable Television System". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  6. ^ "Cable TV changes approved". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. February 22, 1983. Retrieved August 29, 2018.
  7. ^ Pat Record (September 8, 1982). "Alarmed mothers waltz to TV bandstand's rescue, sort of". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  8. ^ "New VEU to you". The Daily Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. October 19, 1980. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  9. ^ "Over the Air Pay TV Broadcasts Wednesday". The Daily Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. October 12, 1980. Retrieved September 12, 2018.
  10. ^ Linda Miller (May 2, 1982). "Pay TV Market in City Slackens But Still "Viable'". The Daily Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  11. ^ "Newsbeat" (PDF). Broadcasting. Cahners Business Information. March 9, 1981. p. 143. Retrieved February 28, 2018 – via American Radio History.
  12. ^ "Special Report: Local TV Journalism" (PDF). Broadcasting. Cahners Business Information. July 27, 1981. p. 40. Retrieved February 28, 2018 – via American Radio History.
  13. ^ Nolan Clay (September 15, 1985). "Parent Company Tightens Control Over City Cable Television System". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  14. ^ "Cable TV changes approved". The Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. February 22, 1983. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  15. ^ Joe Angus (September 19, 1982). ""TMC' dances into the sunset". The Daily Oklahoman. Oklahoma Publishing Company. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  16. ^ Time, Inc. "1982 Annual Report" (PDF). p. 14. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  17. ^ Trausch, Susan (July 29, 1980). "Tube stakes in Boston". Boston Globe. p. 25. Retrieved July 6, 2019. (Continued)
  18. ^ "Monitor" (PDF). Broadcasting. July 28, 1980. p. 89. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  19. ^ "AFTER TODAY, TELEVISION IN ATLANTA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!". Atlanta Constitution. November 23, 1981. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  20. ^ Zoglin, Richard (February 4, 1982). "New Station Flying High—At Night". Atlanta Constitution. Retrieved July 6, 2019.
  21. ^ "Superstar TV goes off the air". Atlanta Constitution. July 22, 1983. Retrieved July 6, 2019.