Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The History Of TV Listings

FYI History Of TV Listings
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The Dark Ages: Make An Appointment With Your TV

Remember back, those of you old enough to do so.  For those still wet behind the ears, just wrap your brain around this…

Imagine a time when you actually had to make an appointment with your television in order to see your favorite show.  That’s right.  Way back when, your favorite content was not just sitting there in a convenient digital box waiting for you to choose it.

Back in these primitive times, you went to your local TV listing, saw when the show was available, then you waited patiently for it.  And, you were careful not to be late because the show ran on time, and a re-run (if indeed one was available) was months away.

Crucial to this date with destiny was—as it is today—your television listing.  And so it happens that back in 1965, in a place called Glen Falls, New York, that a man became the father of television listings with the simple notion that viewers everywhere would want this vital information to inform their viewing.

His name was James E. West and, as luck would have it, he was right.  And he called the new company providing this information TV Data Technologies.

The simple idea of providing television listings swiftly took hold.  As television grew, the television listings business grew with it.

And that’s how the television listings business remained for some time.  Pretty much a print-only world with just four stations and maybe an independent or two to worry about per market.

But then along came cable.

A Ray Of Light: Cable TV & Onscreen Listings

Before cable TV, an entire market’s prime time lineup—and a goodly portion of the day and night before and after—could easily be accommodated in a page of any newspaper.  Title, time, even a program description.

But when cable spewed all those programming options out through that wire, it created a decision for those daily newspapers and weekly guides.  What to include?  What NOT to include?

So now, in the viewer’s mind, the choice was not as simple as one out of four.  There were far more choices.  Far more options.  And far, far more than could be reasonable placed on a single sheet of newspaper.  Cramming them into weekly guides was no small feat, either.

But never fear.  As always happens in the world of television listing data services, an improvement would rush to the aid of those wanting to find their program.

Who could be expected to learn and digest the volumes of programming contained on all the cable channels?  Who could solve the labyrinth of choices at their disposal?

And, thanks to one of James E. West’s associates named Ted Zoli, who would ever have to again?

Mr. Zoli formed an offshoot company—now known as Tribune Media Services—and converted the entire operation to computers.  Which opened the door for the next big jump.  Onscreen listings of programs. 

So viewers could pick what they want while staring at their screens, not a newspaper. 

A New Day Begins: VCR to DVR to What You Want When You Want It

So, while the television listing business had changed, and the way viewers found out about their programming had changed—the appointment setup was pretty much the same.  When’s the show on?  That was the crucible of watching a program.

All the while, weaving through the maze of channels and programs to find that needle in a haystack.

Unless you want to watch Law & Order.  It’s on 24/7 somewhere.

Once again, however, technology jumped in and changed things.  VCRs, once a household item, allowed viewers to program their machine to record the programs they wanted to watch.  On their time. 

That, along with the development of a sophisticated sibling known as the DVR, removed the chains of appointment viewing from people everywhere.  Plus, programming had changed and certain programs were available more frequently than just once a week.

Throw in “on-demand” viewing and pay-per-view viewing?  Now appointment viewing has become Watch What You Want When You Want It viewing. 

Now, you see, the digital age had reached your television, your “clicker”, and your television listing itself.  All through the magic of the digital age,

A Bright Future: FYI Television

Back around 2000—some say 1999, others say 2001—a company came along and took a look at what was happening in television listings.  The company was FYI Television.  (That’s us.)

There, before them, were two industry Goliaths.  What could a humble company from Texas possibly have that could compete with the companies founded by Mssrs. West and Zoli?

The very fact that they were new.  Small.  Certainly, in the face of the entrenched industry leaders, that might seem daunting.  But given the rate of change in television listings, and the exploding dynamics of available technology, small could mean other things, too.

Agile.  Adaptable.  Responsive.  Certainly the new company was capable of unerringly providing complete and accurate television listings.  That was just the price of admission in the category.  Perfection every single time. 

But this new company, FYI Television, was not staid.  Not set in its ways.  Not invested in decades of systems and process that created a “one size fits all” offering to its customers.

No, this new company was not only willing to change with technology—along with the demands of its customers—it was able to.  Uniquely positioned to be the best of both worlds. 

A company supremely qualified to provide print and onscreen solutions of any kind, while still shaking hands with the future and embracing all that it can and will provide.

Because in these rapidly changing times the company best positioned to succeed is the one that can roll with the changes.  Just as fast as they happen.

And that company is FYI Television. 


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