As far as the public goes, it is very easy for them to understand the difference between commercial television and the use of electronic media to let them attend anything they want anywhere in the world at the push of a button and the speed of light. That's really been the essential promise of the medium from the beginning. And it's what's coming in the '80s. If should have been here in the '60s, but it's coming in the '80s . . . .
Microfibrostics (fiber optics) are going to give us 50-channel services on cable. The 84 channels in your set will probably be hot in due time from over-the-air, delivery-direct (satellite-to-home) transmission, but that probably won't come even in the '80s, because you can imagine what's going to happen when they try to take the main powers of television stations, with all their financial value, and just obsolete them by having direct transmission to the home for all 84 channels.
"This undoubtedly could be done by 1985. It could be done now if they started working on it, but they won't because Congress - well, you take all the lawyers in Congress who still have a piece of the home firm whose major clients are in broadcasting and theater and communications generally, and it's a straight block, that's all . . . .
"I have a plan that's quite simple. It is currently possible to put over the air a service that would include seven nights a week in prime time, a scrambled signal that would be unscrambled by a little unit that the subscriber himself would attach to his television set. You could put out a service that could have brand new movies one night - good ones - and run-of-the-mill movies another night, and go back to live drama as just a habit on another night, and a night at the theater where you actually go to Broadway or the West End. And in prime time you could cover ballet, opera, the motion picture field, the nonfiction field - you would in effect attend great events in a wide range of attractions, and everybody would pay a flat rate - five, six, seven dollars a month.
"All the research - all the research - shows that there is a base of not less than 25 percent of all television homes that would purchase this kind of service, and with interconnection by satellite you could line up 100 stations easily to carry it . . . .
"I do think we will have a major break-through where the subscriber service (pay TV) complements the commercial service and indeed replaces a lot of it in time. Once people realize they don't have to just sit there at the boob-tube and look at all that crap, they are going to start being more selective . . . .
"And the tendency in the coming years will be what's always been evident to futurology types like me - where the television service will offer the true experiencing of events elsewhere from home, through a combination of technological developments we've actually had for many years. The cable is a major one, the cartridge (cassette) is another major one, and the actual over-the-air service, scrambled for the subscriber part and clear for the commercial part and the public part. All these things will happen in confluence.
"And the budget of the average family will change. "The New Car' will be a joke. No one will care about transportation. They will think about what they've got at home in the media center - what's going to happen tonight, and what the Event of the Month's going to be this month. They'll give David Merrick $25 million to produce one show live one night, for four hours, and then it's over, and the next night it's something else. There'll be that kind of major moving up on the scale."