The abbreviation CATV is often used to mean "Cable TV". It originally stood for Community Antenna Televison, from cable televison's origins in 1948: in areas where over the air reception was limited by mountainous terrain, large "community antennas" were constructed, and cable was run from them to individual homes.
In the UK, Cable Televison had its origins in 1938, when the first Community Antenna TV systems were set up in towns including Bristol and Hull, for homes which could not recieve transmissions over the air, operating on the national standard 405-line system. In the 1960's Rediffusion Vision was set up to provide cable televison in the newer 625-line and PAL formats.
In the early 1980's Rediffusion Vision supplemented its service with other channels including The Music Box, Mirrorvision, Lifestyle Screensport, Sky channel and TEN. The service was renamed as Rediffusion Cablevision.
By 2000 the two principal cable operators were NTL and Telewest. NTL's cable service was originally known as CableTel and grew rapidly through the acquistion of, among others, ComTel (which itself had bought Telecential), Comcast, Diamond Cable and finally, in 1999, the residential and small business operations of Cable & Wireless. Telewest acquired locl cable operators including Eurobell (Plymouth & Sussex), Cable London (north London franchises), Birmingham Cable and large franchises in the north east and north west of England. The original Telewest cable company was created after mergers of United Artists and General Cable in the mid 1990's.
In 2005 it was announced that NTL and Telewest would merge, after a period of co-operation in the prceding few years. This merger was completed on 3rd March 2006 with the company being named ntl Incorperated, For the time being the two brand names and services were marketed separatley. However, following NTL's acquisition of Virgin Mobile, the NTL and Telewest services were rebranded Virgin Media on 08/02/2007 creating a single cable operator covering more than 95% of the UK cable market.
There are a small number of other surviving cable TV companies in The UK outside of NTL including WightCable (Isle of Wight) and Smallworld (previously WightCable North).
Cable TV faces intense competition from BSkyB's Sky Digital satellite television service. Most channels are carried on both platforms. However, cable often lacks "interactive" features, especailly on BSkyB owned channels, and the satellite platform lacks services requiring high degrees of two-way communication, such as true video on demand.
Subscription funded digital terrestrial TV proved less of a competitive threat. The first system, ITV Digital, went into liquidation in 2002. Top Up T later replaced it, however this service is shrinking as the DVB-T multiplex owners are finding FTA broadcasting more profitable.
Another potential source of competition in the future will be Tv over broadbrand internet connections; this is known as IPTV. Some IPTV services are currently available in London, while services operated in Hull ceased in April 2006. As the speed and availiblity of broadband connections increase, more TV content can be delivered using protocols such as IPTV. However, its impact on the market is yet to be meaused, as is consumer attitude toward watching TV programmes on computers instead of televison sets. At the end of 2006, BT (the UK's former state owned monopoly phone company) started offering BT Vision which is digital freeview TV using an ariel, but also incorporates on demand TV, delivered over a broadband connection and displayed on a television.