ON TV Subscription Box, Circa 1980

ONTV Box

ONTV Box-2

One switch. Two choices. As I said way back here, where you can see the box in the wild, ON TV (1977-1983) was a subscription service that would unscramble UHF channels in participating markets. Los Angeles was one of those markets, and it was the first pay-for-TV service my parents got, probably around 1982. That same year, ON TV secured the rights to Star Wars and aired the film on a pay-per-view basis in September. My parents and a number of other neighborhood parents chipped in, and a whole mess of ecstatic kids joined me in our tiny living room for the occasion. Our TV was 19″ at most.

Here’s the intro to ON TV’s “opening night” in 1980, featuring 10, Norma Rae, and Slap Shot. Not exactly a kid’s dream line-up. I dig how the logo mimics the straightening out of the scrambled UHF signal.

5 Responses to “ON TV Subscription Box, Circa 1980”


  1. 1 Tom May 10, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I’m not sure if it was “On TV” but St. Louis had something similar in the early ’80’s. We found that if you monkeyed around with the horizontal and vertical, you could get a semi-recognizable picture. No sound, but you felt like you were getting away with something.

    • 2 2W2N May 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Me and my friends tried that to get porn, Tom. All you had to do was turn any old TV to UHF to get the pay channels. The audio wasn’t scrambled, so it wasn’t long before every adolescent male in America figured out what was playing in the late hours.

  2. 3 antoniusrex May 10, 2016 at 4:53 pm

    Oh man! ON TV! On and Zenith was the other one. We would go next door to the neighbors’ house and watch on their big projection TV! The key! Oh man.

    It was in 1982 when we got our cable box, if I recall correctly.

    Man, TV used to be much simpler–even when it was “complicated.”

  3. 5 Tom May 16, 2016 at 3:23 am

    I knew I remembered seeing something similar in an old TV Guide. New York had Wometco. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ZmYnKDWm_FI/UpwFkCJ-K1I/AAAAAAAAFDY/Ex_2u1m9cO8/s1600/IMG_20131201_0015.jpg


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