From Local Utility to Global Commodity

  • Tom Evens
  • Karen Donders
Part of the Palgrave Global Media Policy and Business book series (GMPB)


This chapter provides an historical overview of television distribution and its shift from a local utility to a global commodity. It describes the role of cable in the early days, which extended the reach of over-the-air television and was considered to serve the public interest. It shows how cable developed into pay-television systems that directly competed with free-to-air channels. It depicts how the cable industry became gradually privatised and liberalised, with local monopolies merging into national operators and being sold to private investors. It exemplifies how distribution has lost its local character and turned into a business that is increasingly reigned by international corporations active in large parts of the world. Geographical expansion has further driven industry consolidation, resulting in the formation of a handful pan-European distribution groups. Liberty Global is presented as a case of a global cable conglomerate expanding into activities along the audiovisual value chain.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.imec-mict, Department of Communication SciencesGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.imec-SMIT, Department of Communication SciencesFree University of BrusselsBrusselsBelgium

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