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Pay television


Pay television, also known as subscription television or premium television, are subscription-based television services, usually provided by multichannel television providers, but also increasingly via digital terrestrial, and streaming television. Subscription television began in the multi-channel transition and transitioned into the post-network era. Some parts of the world, notably in France, Latin America and the United States, have also offered encrypted analog terrestrial signals available for subscription.

Many pay television services consist of multiple individual channels, referred to as "multiplex" services (in reference to multiplex cinemas), where a main flagship channel is accompanied by secondary services with distinct schedules focusing on specific genres and audiences (such as multiplexes focusing more on "classic" films, or family-oriented programming), time shifting, or brand licensing deals (such as channels focusing specifically on Disney films, or content from U.S. pay television brands if they do not specifically run their own network in a specific market). Typically, these services are bundled together with the main channel at no additional charge, and cannot be purchased separately.

Though selling premium services that are related by ownership as a package is common, that may not always be the situation: for example, in the United States, Cinemax and Encore are optionally sold separately from or in a single package with their respective parent networks HBO and Starz, depending on the service provider. The Movie Channel and Flix meanwhile, are usually sold together with Showtime (all three channels are owned by CBS Corporation); though subscribers are required to purchase Showtime in order to receive Flix, The Movie Channel does not have such a restriction as a few providers optionally sell that service without requiring a Showtime subscription.

In Australia, Foxtel, Optus Television and TransACT are the major pay television distributors, all of which provide cable services in some metropolitan areas, with Foxtel providing satellite service for all other areas where cable is not available. Austar formerly operated as a satellite pay service, until it merged with Foxtel and SelecTV. The major distributors of pay television in New Zealand are Sky Network Television on satellite and Vodafone on cable.

Pay-per-view (PPV) services are similar to subscription-based pay television services in that customers must pay to have the broadcast decrypted for viewing, but usually only entail a one-time payment for a single or time-limited viewing. Programs offered via pay-per-view are most often movies or sporting events, but may also include other events, such as concerts and even softcore adult programs. In the U.S., the initial concept and technology for pay-per-view for broadcast television was first developed in the early 1950s, including a crude decrypting of the over-the-air television signal and a decoding box, but never caught on for use at that time. It took another four decades when cable broadcasters started using pay-per-view on a widespread basis.