PREVIEW

Etobicoke: Its experiment points the way for pay-TV

ROSEMARY GRAHAM August 13 1960
PREVIEW

Etobicoke: Its experiment points the way for pay-TV

ROSEMARY GRAHAM August 13 1960

Etobicoke: Its experiment points the way for pay-TV

PREVIEW

FIVE MONTHS AGO, a newly formed company called Trans-Canada Telemeter launched in the western Toronto suburb of Etobicoke the continent's first real experiment in pay-as-you-watch TV.

Elsewhere, including Montreal and a cluster of towns in B. C., community antenna services that pipe in distant programs and charge for them have been called pay-television. But the Etobicoke experiment is the first test of commercial-free, first-class entertainment. sent into a closed circuit of homes that pay for them show by show. Here's a report on how the experiment is working out, and what it portends.

Etobicoke is not a typical TV neighborhood. Nearly 98% of its homes already have sets and it is densely populated with prosperous families—two conditions that are important for successful pay-TV. But it is within easy reach of the entertainment district of Toronto. And five channels, including all three major U. S. networks and the CBC, are available on regular TV. Trans-Canada Telemeter, a division of Famous Players, which is in turn an affiliate of Paramount Pictures, chose Etobicoke with the thought that if the experiment went well in the face of that competition it would go well anywhere.

So far, it is. Already, 4.50Ü families have paid the $5 fee to have a mantel-radio-sized meter hooked up to their TV set. The meter adds three channels to their set. One, called Channel C. is free. It carries news reports (by the Toronto Star), weather, sports and community service programs, including a Red Cross blood clinic, an appeal by the local cancer society, and regular religious shows. Throughout the day, the set plays hi-fi music and spot announcements of what's on the pay channels, A and B.

They carry mostly first-run movies — at about a dollar a show, though some top ones cost $2. Last month, the program included such hits as The Nun’s

Story, Titanic, Tender Trap. Suddenly Last Summer and The Mouse That Roared. All the stars in Jack Reppen's illustration on this page have been on Etobicoke screens recently, in first-run movies. Saturday and Sunday there are 25-cent matinees for children. People who have color TV sets can pick up technicolor movies—in technicolor. Pay-TV carried the Johannson-Patterson fight in June.

Maclean's recently talked to a sample of the audience. Without exception they liked pay-TV—largely because there are no commercials. Most were watching two or three movies a week at home—far more

than they'd gone out to see before pay-TV. They were pumping money into the box at a $100-to-$240a-year clip. One couple said they were going to move, but they wouldn't move out of Etobicoke because of the pay-TV.

Trans-Canada Telemeter will likely move toward other Canadian cities. Negotiations are now being carried out to have the telemeter boxes made in Canada — which would eliminate the 22Vi% duty TCT now pays and cut its $100 capital outlay every time it installs a set.

ROSEMARY GRAHAM